Today’s Flight Plan
A2A Simulations is known (or you will soon find out) for their high fidelity simulations. Owner Scott Gentile has built up this business, with a powerful team right there with him, to provide simulated aircraft that open your eyes to new possibilities.
A2A is largely known for their Accusim modeling, which basically makes the whole flightsim experience much more immersive and realistic. All the shutters, shakes and buffets you’d expect from flying, with their associated sounds and visual effects, is just some of the immersive stuff you’ll see.
If you don’t run these planes properly, there will be consequences. You may run your battery down trying to run the starter too much, or fowl the spark plugs if your mixture is too rich. Really anything you do has realistic consequences. But, good thing there is a maintenance hangar for you to get work done on the airplane, and change out parts.
When you speak A2A, you’re talking about a WHOLE different type of simulation. It is a sight to behold.
In this episode we get to know more about A2A, their history, and a lot more about Scott as well. For you flight sim guys out there, you’ll love this one. And for you real pilots looking to get a quality simulation, you don’t want to ignore this.
Scott Gentile- A2A Simulations
Thanks a million for joining us on this episode, Scott. It was a pleasure! Keep up the fantastic work. We’ll just be here flying these amazing simulations while you work on the next big thing.
Major thanks to the amazing Angle of Attack Crew for all their hard work over the years. Our team works incredibly hard, and they’re very passionate about what they do.
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Before takeoff, checklist complete. This is AviatorCast episode 45!
Calling all aviators, pilots and aviation lovers, welcome to AviatorCast, where we close the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Climb aboard, buckle up and prepare for takeoff. Here’s your host, Chris Palmer!
Chris: Welcome, welcome, welcome aviators, you’ve landed at AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer. Years ago as a young boy, I started out with this aviation thing by being fascinated with simulation. As I grew, so did my love for all things flying. Eventually, I’d be flying for real, getting a true taste for flight. Simulation, real flight and my general love for aviation all contribute to this passion of mine as I’m sure may be the case with even you.
I’m the founder and owner of Angle of Attack, a video flight training company which is bringing you this podcast today. AviatorCast is a weekly podcast where we talk about the spirit of the aviator. We believe flying is an art form, one that we have to continually practice and master. This mastery is gained through a focus on continual learning, human factors, humility, and a commitment to excellence. Show notes, transcript, community discussion and links for this episode can be found by simply going to AviatorCast.com.
So welcome to this, the 45th episode of AviatorCast. It is my pleasure to welcome you here and to have you be a part of this wonderful community. So I have a great interview lined up for you guys. I know that a lot of you simulation or flight simulator guys are going to love this podcast today because we have a fantastic developer on this show with us and I’ll share exactly who that is in a few moments here.
First, we have a review and this is a great one, I really like this one. This comes from Anis Askoul and gives us five stars. He says “Keep up the amazing work you’re doing.” That’s his title. He says “Hey Chris, my name is Anis and I’m from Syria and currently living in Istanbul. I’m a flying lover and a simulator enthusiast but I couldn’t reach my dream of becoming a pilot because of the war tearing our country apart. I just want to tell you when I listen to your podcast, I feel like I’m a real aviator. I can feel your passion same as mine and same as the people leaving your reviews on this podcast. Not to make it so long, I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for this and I really mean your podcast and your AOA is super awesome. Keep up this passion my friend and thank you again.”
Anis, thank you so much for your review and thank you for being part of our community, and you’re right, there are many out there that are just like you that really have this passion for flight, and I’m absolutely excited to hear that you’re with us coming all the way from Istanbul and that you are enjoying aviation through simulation. So it’s great to have you and thank you so much for the heartfelt message. That’s very much appreciated.
So if you want to leave a review kind of like Anis here, you can go ahead and do that on iTunes. That is the primary source to leave a review and that lets others now about the podcast and that it is something worth going and listening to. So if you do enjoy this episode, please go there. If you do nothing else, leave a review for us. We’d really appreciate that. And subscribe, why not?
So today, I have a fantastic episode lined up for you guys. I have Scott Gentile from A2A Simulations with us. Now, Scott started with A2A Simulations a very long time ago. He’s kind of the face of A2A Simulations. He’s not necessarily the CEO or anything like that but he’s mainly the face. Does a lot of work with the company. I think he’s kind of their main guy. Scott is quality-driven, and I mean this guy takes simulations to a whole new level that you wouldn’t imagine. He does that by doing what are called “add-on aircraft,” taking a software package in and of itself, throwing that into Microsoft Flight Simulator or Prepar3D and that simulation kind of standing of its own.
He essentially, recently especially, they’ve created some very popular general aviation aircraft in the 172, the Cherokee I believe or the Comanche, one of the two, and the 182. These are top-notch and I mean they are crazy. You get all sorts of consequences for doing things wrong. They fly realistically, they handle realistically, they sound realistic. There’s just so much immersion that goes with the simulation that you forget that you’re actually in a simulation. And at the end of the day, that’s what a great simulator does. You forget for several moments at a time that you are flying not for real but rather in a simulator and that has tremendous consequences also for being a great training tool, not just sort of this entertainment tool that a lot of people use simulation for but also a great way to learn the actual aircraft through simulation.
We’re going to talk a lot about that with Scott but we’re also going to get to know him a little better and where his background kind of brought him up to this space in simulation. These guys are top-notch, A2A Simulations. I can’t say enough good things about them, and I think you’re going to get a feel for that in this interview, so enjoy, here is Hangar Talk with Scott Gentile.
Now, a special hangar talk segment…
Chris: Alright everybody, we are honored to have a very special guest with us today, Scott Gentile. How are you doing Scott?
Chris: Awesome. So Scott, you are from A2A Simulations. You guys do absolutely stellar work in creating very high fidelity, very high quality general aviation aircraft, even some Warbirds, you’ve done Captain of the Ship as well. We’re going to get in to all that but first question I always ask of the people I’m interviewing is how did you fall in love with aviation? So let’s start there.
Scott: Well. It’s probably the same with most of the people in aviation I’d imagine. Most must have started like me at just a very, very young age. I can’t remember, I mean this is going way back to earliest memories of just falling in love with airplanes that is flying over your house. But I remember as a kid, it was an enormously powerful draw. It was almost an obsession. I think I had one large airplane book as a kid and I just think about how many times I looked at that. It was a great book actually. I lost the book many years ago growing up and then I repurchased it. I think it’s in our DNA. I’ve said this many times. I think we all share a common DNA in our blood and that’s the aviation gene.
And for me, it’s also closely tied to freedom, big freedom lover. I think people who love to fly really are seeking the freedom that we get when we’re flying in way above the earth and you’re flying. There’s something spiritual about flying airplanes and I think it’s a very young age and there’s nothing turning away from it. And my brother, like most kids, guys at that age, he loves all mechanical stuff but he kind of views airplanes like he views cars, like he views trains, that kind of stuff. But we don’t view airplanes and cars the same. There are a lot of us who love airplanes, also do love automobiles. The airplane is a very special place.
Chris: Definitely. Did your parents fly or anything like that? Who was your aviation mentor that kind of got you started in it all?
Scott: My father had a Cessna-120 and that was long before I was born. He lost his license because he was diabetic, so license was yanked. So by the time I was born, he hadn’t flown for many years. But always as a kid, he always supported my love for aviation. I have early memories of him driving me to the airport, and I remember going out in a Twin, I can’t remember what kind of Twin it was, I must have been 5 or something. What I remember being in this Twin. Actually I do remember the first time I was in a small airplane with him and it probably was a Cessna. I’m guessing it was a Cessna-172.
All I remember is my expectation was this was going to be a pristine machine. It was going to be just almost like a spaceship. I was expecting all these high tech devices and I was thinking “Wow, this is going to be something.” And I just remember seeing the pilot pulling up, I thought it was a choke, but he was actually, and I remembered, he was priming. But my grandfather used to have an old pickup truck and I remember him always wrestling with that choke. When this thing started, it’s rattling, it’s bucking. I remember looking around, I was all beat up and I was actually no comfortable in that first flight, I was thinking “Are you sure this thing is safe?” And I was basically “Just get me on the ground” because it felt like a bag of bolts.
But it’s funny because that is what these small airplanes are and in many ways most airplanes in general because they’re built to be as light as possible and they’re designed to only have strength in those absolutely necessary areas and anything that doesn’t need it, doesn’t get it, so they to then to be a bag of bolts. And that’s the beauty of it. That’s what we’re about. We capture the bag of bolts and rattle in all stuff in our technology.
Chris: I would say so, and we’ll get to talk more about that because I’m pretty excited about this new product that you guys have out. How did you transition from being around aviation as a kid, your father was obviously kind of into it. How did you transition from there into actually getting into actual flight training? So tell us that story.
Scott: When I was in my late 20s, I always aviation was just out of reach financially, and that’s one of the big problems we have in general aviation today, is it just seems like something you only do if you obtain certain degree of financial success. But in my late 20s, I was a musician. I was not making a lot of money. I wasn’t married. I was just out there playing gigs, doing what a single guy does, not much responsibility. Then I started doing the numbers and I realized “Geez, now I could afford to buy a little Piper” and I purchased a 1978 4-seat Piper Warrior. I didn’t have much of a car. I mean, I loved that car to death but I think I pit like $1500 for the car and I built it. And it was just a small one-room apartment but I could afford to buy the plane.
What I didn’t anticipate with that airplane were the bills from the maintenance. I had really bad luck in that airplane. The Comanche that I own and operate now, it’s a fraction of the cost. It’s just because now I’m a very active owner, anytime that plane is touched, it’s either both my hands or someone else’s hands with me right there. It’s much more affordable when you’re involved and also when you got a plane that’s of good quality.
Chris: If I understand this correctly, you basically bought an airplane before you had your license, did I get that right?
Scott: Yeah. I purchased the plane and was to train on it.
Scott: At least I had that right because when you talk about a mentor, my mentor was probably my first instructor, his name is Diego. I’ve totally lost touch with Diego, I have no idea where he is. I wish I could see that guy because that guy was a great instructor. There were four instructors at the school, I went there with my plane, and I went around asking people who’s the toughest instructor and hands down it was Diego. They used to call him diablo. He did not find that name funny at all but they used to call him diablo all the time.
Diego was an Embry Riddle hotshot. He used to fly Learjets and corporate jets. He was one of these guys that just had a lot of time in high performance aircraft. And I remember looking outside and when there’s bad weather, I’d be in that car out to the airport “Diego, can we go up?” I remember this sudden image one time going in and Diego literally had his feet in the desk and he’s reading the paper, you know it’s like in flight schools, it’s raining, nobody’s working. We’re just sitting around shooting the breeze. He kind of laughed at me and he goes “You want to go up in this?” I said “Well if we can, absolutely.” He goes “Sure, we can go up.” And of course it was great to have Diego who as you know as a pilot yourself, Diego is flying plenty of IFRs and he used to took me up in some of the worst turbulence and these were pretty bad turbulent days. I even remember some of the days we you went up, pretty nasty.
I remember in landing that plane and that thing was getting kicked all over the place but I felt comfortable because Diego, he was laughing. He was laughing at how much he was getting rocked around. A very confident pilot but he thought me the best lessons. What Diego continued to do with me is he constantly pull my throttle “Where are you going to land? Ah, nope. Too late.” And like why it’s too late? Because you already should know where you’re going to land.
And so this went on and on and I was kind of getting really annoyed by it. It was like just repetitive. You’re up there and boom, where are you going to land? And I’m like “Geez, I don’t know” and he’d go “Too late.” And he’d actually let me go way down like above the field, stuff like that. Actually probably was not legal what we’re doing but it was great training. He kept saying “You’re flying a single engine airplane, you’ve got to know that you always have a safe landing space.” And he thought me about crossing the Long Island sound, you cross at the shortest point, you make sure that you’re crossing at an altitude. I have to do all the calculations, glide ratios, I have to make it to the shore. And it didn’t hit me until my first crosscountry.
I remember going down south, I was kind of feeling uncomfortable for some reason. Just saw a thick forest and I was thinking “Oh, I got nowhere to land around here.” I wasn’t really, as a very low time pilot, I wasn’t really thinking that way, and I remember thinking “Geez, I either have to fly some place else or I have to fly a lot higher.” And he gave that instinct to me to always have that and that’s come in pretty handy because there had been these little times, little situations that could be an emergency, they turn out to be not an emergency. One time I was flying the Comanche and it went “brrrrrrr…” My first reaction was it was gas but actually, I say my first reaction, my first immediate instinctual reaction was I’m okay because the terrain down there was landable. Those are the things that I remember with Diego and he was just very hard on me, just very demanding and I’m so glad I picked him.
And I think incidentally that that attitude has to continue even though like right now I’m constantly thinking of who can I fly with, continue beating me up people who are better than me at doing like aerobatics and stuff like that. I’m not really interested in doing aerobatics. I like flying for just flying but I probably going to learn aerobatics only because it pushes the envelope. You’re IFR-rated and halfway through my IFR, that pushed the envelope. My landing actually improved in the first 10 hours of my IFR training. I found it was like “Wow, I can really just lock in the centerline a lot more instinctually” and that’s because of all that instrument training. I’m really into that constantly keeping you out of the comfort zone.
Chris: Definitely, yeah. I certainly believe in that too. We’ve actually talked about that a lot on this show and in several different episodes where you constantly need to be challenged. You need to have great mentors like you had with Diego and even if you don’t have a Diego in the cockpit with you, you need to be pushing yourself as well to be better and do better and be more precise and just be a better pilot. There’s a lot to be said for that.
Scott: Yeah. And if you own an airline, making that checklist the best you can be. I mean, I’ve got my own homemade checklist based on the Piper checklist but in flying for two years, I added something about four months ago, but I mean, that kind of stuff, constantly bettering yourself.
Chris: Definitely. Because there are little things about your workflow in your own airplane that are going to be different and there are even things that may be a modern thing where you’re dealing with an iPad in a cockpit or some sort of flight plan, filing a flight plan, something like that that maybe could work its way in your checklist as well. Even that little nugget of information is helpful.
Chris: So let’s talk about A2A. You are the founder of A2A I assume, right? So let’s talk about the startup story. Tell us about how you got started with A2A and kind of how you guys went through your history and tell where you are now kind of. Let’s go through that. I know that’s kind of a big mouthful and it will take a little bit but I guess that’s what we’re here for.
Scott: A2A began maybe 13 years ago and I was at Sim headquarters, I was on the staff at SimHQ. We’re flying these air combat sims and I was never satisfied with the visual effects. I always felt the visual effects were terrible. I remember contacting a developer once and he’s actually still working today. I remember calling him on the phone. I said “Hey, why don’t you have the smoke last a little bit longer like you dropped a bomb.” And he goes “What do you mean?” I said “Well you know, I just dropped a 2000-pound bomb. So are you thinking I will be able to look over my shoulder and see where the bomb is to make a second run.” I just couldn’t make the target.
And this guy gave me the BS response of “Oh, it’s too much horsepower on the engine to keep that plume of smoke going up that high” and I thought to myself “Well, the guy obviously does not have his priorities straight. He does not have his basics straight.” I mean I don’t care if you’re giving me circles. You don’t have to give me realistic smoke but you got to give me some smoke that I can see. All I had was this little decal of a crater that I couldn’t find mixed in.
And so I finally had enough and I went to Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 2 which incidentally is a very similar flight modeling to FSX to sort of the roots of FSX. We’re really into the flight models and air combat. It was all about realistic aircraft performance. But at that time, it was also about visual effects because anything that’s immersed in color and the visual effects were just so bad. So I basically spent about a month and I just made these little updates and I put them out in the internet. It got really popular and I was really surprised by the popularity and everyone was saying “God, these effects are so good.” I’m thinking to myself “Why are these effects so popular? Can’t people see that they’re really bad?”
Then one guy, name is Andy at SimHQ, he said “Scott, I have used your effects pack and I recommend that you go into this as a career because I think you have what it takes.” And I tell you, I took Andy’s advice. I began to think that just maybe, these things that seem so obvious, I was assuming that everybody knew and everybody saw. But obviously they didn’t because of course the effects would be better. It’s kind of an illogical way to think about it. If they saw this stuff, then I wouldn’t be looking at them and thinking it looks too bad. So we made Firepower. It was an add-on for Microsoft Combat Flight Simulators free. It was supposed to be a weapons and explosion pack. I just wanted to have proper realistic weapons. I mean, with proper physics. I was studying the size of the fireballs, studying the size of a shockwave and how far it would go out and what it would affect and I was getting involved in all sorts of stuff, penetration of armor-piercing weapons, incendiaries, high explosive, all that stuff and it was all great stuff.
Then we started bringing on modelers and incidentally Rob Rogowski, he was the first one I worked with in flight sim and I remember looking out there, I did a search for all the people making airplanes, and there was everybody else and there was Rob. It was really that simple. There was the masses and I don’t want to speak badly but they are very low level. Flight sim back then was just amateur modelers. None of these people had any experience with modeling. They just had passion for making airplanes good and they just decided to get the latest freeware modeling thing. Rob was very different. I remembered he told me, he made a master spin 410 and it was absolutely gorgeous. I remember he had screenshots. He made himself a website, and I asked him, he said it took him eight months to make that but I might be wrong and that might longer than that. He spent 8 months to make the plane and it was his first airplane he made. I mean that is like seriously dedicated intelligent approach and discipline, highly disciplined.
And that is Rob, he is highly disciplined. I just teamed up with Rob and we basically created a nucleus back then and then we teamed up with a guy named Jay and he was flight modeling and he was outstanding. He’s meticulous, he interviewed pilots after pilots after pilots. So we really kind of became a trio at that point and we were creating products. And it just continued onward but I’ll tell you, we’ve always had our face to the wind. Always been pushing the envelope. Back then we are the new kids on the block and we were really changing just the environment first from a visual point of view. Rob’s stuff was just earth-shattering. It was like “How the hell does he do this?” And the thing about it, we had a team of like seven modelers and Rob was so well-respected. I was concerned that his models were so good, and they were, that he would have demotivated the entire team. But it didn’t work that way. Somehow, he motivated everybody. He was so respectful of working with them. Everyone loved working with the guy and there’s Rob’s model and there was everyone else.
And while working with Rob, the entire team brought it up a couple notches and all the models benefited. And we used to have a little game we’d play, we’d say “How many polys?” The modeler would post a screenshot and he’d say “How many polys” and Rob would do that and everyone was guessing approximately two times the polygon count and I’m like “Are you kidding me? 14,000 polys? How is it possible?” And then Rob would show them the techniques. You have to be a simulation/gaming artist. You have to understand, and that’s Rob. He’s insane on getting good frame rates. And he also worked with a very low power computer. All through those years, Rob was using an underpowered computer and he said he did not want to upgrade because he wanted to make sure that the planes flew right. And now we have Ni Hao and we have Marcello and they all work together as a team. But we don’t like to boss each other around. We like to sort of pretty much be equals in the team and working like that.
Chris: Great. Sounds like a start-up mentality kind of and I think the longer you keep that mentality too, the better, good way to operate.
Scott: Yeah. Everyone knows what they’re supposed to do so they have their specialty, they do it at the best of what they do.
Chris: So what’s the product history from there? You work in combat flight simulator a bit more than I did I’m sure.
Scott: We were making great products but we had signed up with a very bad publisher that went out of business and they owed us a lot of money and when they go out of business and they were out of our country publisher. So we sort of racked up a lot of debt years ago. And then the brick and mortar market has started to really sort of slowing down and you print up copies of a game or a sim like a particular heavy bombers and jets, World War II fighters. You start shipping these things out. If they only sell 50% through, the other 50% come back, they end up bargained and before you know, you’re just getting pennies on the dollar. It just was an absolutely miserable way to do business and it’s good riddance to brick and mortar and publishers. Goodbye. The moment they starting receding into the background, A2A started growing because we’re now speaking directly to the customer. We are making that 377. It was supposed to be out in December I remember, and as I was going through each of these systems, I was like “Okay, we got to replace the manifold pressure because this is not right. This is not the way manifold pressure works. I don’t know how they’re doing it but I don’t have time to reverse engineer what they’re doing. Let’s just make a new manifold pressure, can we do it? Yeah, sure we can do it.”
Then it kept going and going and going and it was going on and on and on. We eventually went around that entire Stratocruiser cockpit and that’s a big cockpit with a lot of systems and we replaced everything. So everything was now out of FSX. And by that time, we have created Accu-Sim, we didn’t realize until it was sort of halfway through. I said “Guys, we’re not only creating something, this is a whole new simulator here. This is no longer FSX, this is Accu-Sim.” But then we thought 20% of our customer base was going to want Accu-Sim, and 80% was just going to want to fly a pretty plane, look at it and have fun.
Chris: And it was opposite wasn’t it?
Scott: It was the absolute opposite. 80% of the people on day 1 reached for the additional Accu-Sim pack and that aircraft was not cheap. And that sucker came out in day 1. That was by far our must successful opening day and when that day happened, you know you have an intuition you work by, you have this little voice inside you that tells you when something’s possible, when something’s not so you know when to stop or know when to forge ahead. That day, at the end of that day, I was a new person. I was a new man on that day because I saw money coming in and I realized we can do this. We can get this company out of debt and we can succeed.
And I realized “Guys, we can’t make another mistake.” I’m not saying, we’re humans, everyone makes mistakes, but with no major mistakes since then. And every plane since them, the P-47 Thunderbolts and the Warbirds and the GA. So yeah, Accu-Sim, and that was it. And of course, it just allows us to get to it. We have our own environment, our own working engine. That engine as you know is a physical engine from the get-go. There’s no engine on and an engine off variable. And it’s a variable that coders will use to say “Well, is the engine running? Because if the engine is running, we want to do this?”
Chris: And by engine, you mean game engine, just for the listeners, right?
Scott: No. I’m talking about the physical engine in the plane. It’s like you’re flying a Piper Cherokee, it’s got to like climbing 360 and the 180, right? At some point the engine is running and at some point it’s not. Well in flight simulator, it’s like a light switch. When you hit the starter, is everything there? Is the fuel there? Is there enough electricity? If everything is just check, check, check, check, everything’s good, then it says “Okay. Engine combustion equals one.” And as soon as it equals one, then it says to the engine “Run the start-up sound.” Then you got this recan startup sounds and once that things fade the startup sound out and then run the idle sound or whatever you happen to be at and that’s the way it starts up. Really it’s a light switch but in Accu-Sim, there’s clearly no light switch. There’s no such thing as an engine running or not. There are pistons that go up and down with spark plugs. Actually, there are pistons and valves that open that go up and down and they suck in the air, in the fuel, and it takes it from that. And if the air and the fuel is being suck in at a certain speed, that’s great enough, the cylinder might fire and there’s a lot of different variables based on whether that cylinder’s going to be firing, whether it’s fuel distribution. All this stuff sounds kind of crazy but what does it matter. The end result is you have an engine that feels exactly like a real combustion engine.
And anybody that’s driven a car, has used a lawnmower or snowblower or a leafblower or anything, chainsaw, anything you’ve done, we have an inherent sense of a combustion engine. It’s almost like a living organic machine, it’s a machine. And we know when it sounds good. You know when it’s running to high. You know when it’s not running right, if it’s skipping. You know when it’s running smooth, and then of course you have an airplane engine which is just a bunch of these pistons all tied together spinning a craft shaft, that’s spinning a propeller, and then actually the spitfire was the first time we did a new propeller physics.
So at first, it kind of happened with the Stratocruiser, then we replaced the sound engine completely with the P-47 which is awesome. It’s not that you can open up a canopy and you got out wind and the engine was all good and we did the spitfire, did the propeller and we kept going more and more. The P-40 was the hydraulics system. That’s when we created the Accu-Sim hydraulics systems and then it went on and on from there.
Chris: Gotcha. Now, just to clarify for the listeners, Accu-Sim is essentially A2A’s way of hijacking all of the terrible wrong things that Microsoft Flight Simulator, whatever simulator working and basically does it realistically. Like you said, it’s actually taking into account the pistons moving. It’s taking into account all of these things that are going on behind the scenes to actually make the engine run. And really, that’s not just in the engine, that is with many, many different operations in aircraft systems, in how everything flies through the air. Basically, you’re taking everything over. Am I right in making that assessment?
Scott: Everything. Absolutely entire airplane is recreated. And we’re getting into I think it’s like year 7. This is a mature, working system that includes the electrical systems proper. There are things that happen in Accu-Sim planes that only happen in Accu-Sim planes because we code it in there based in our observations of actual airplanes and things like that. And the cool thing is also when you have that physics engine, actually drive and create and generate the sound. In fact, the Accu-Sim engine sound, it’s actually generated by the pulses of the pistons and the explosions, so it makes a consistent sound. The actual engine sounds themselves do not have any skipping, there’s no rough running engine but if you actually were to be flying an Accu-Sim plane and in a highly unlikely scenario where you’d say a cylinder might crack or something, it might lose all compression in the cylinder but that’s what happened to my Warrior, I mean you really knew that immediately and you could hear the “dududut” like that and that’s what Accu-Sim do.
The engine sounds something “blablabla” like that but it’s only doing that because say the number three cylinder is not firing. So the engine is going to lose a little bit of momentum, it’s not going to be out of balance so you can shake in the airframe. That airframe is going to be shaking the gauges and all the things that are attached to it so you’re going to get some shaking in there. You’re going to hear the engine going “vavavav” like that and you’re actually, if it’s shaking the airframe enough, you might hear the airframe shaking so there are a lot of little things that might happen but they’re all happening dynamically. It’s truly simulating the physical interactions of what’s going on in airplane, in the engine, in the propeller, in the controls, in the way the wings respond. Especially in slow flight as well. That’s the other thing where Accu-Sim is basically, it just makes slow flight… You’re a pilot, you know…
Chris: It’s one of the only planes you can do slow flight in a simulator and realistically do it. Otherwise, it’s not like the real thing at all.
Scott: Yeah. Actually, one of the Microsoft guys, they’re always been big fans of our work from the original team and that’s exactly the guys said to me. They’re asking me “How are you doing?” that kind of thing. How do you make the plane fly like that when it gets low?
Chris: Well, we hijacked your, what you guys were doing, we’re doing correctly now.
Scott: Well I tell you, the Microsoft team was always incredible mature and respectful and I have always tremendous respect for them.
Chris: Yeah, as a team, as people, they’re fantastic. It’s really Microsoft as a business that were holding them back from doing special things.
Scott: Well, that’s a whole different situation. But I mean, I never really liked it when people, as an artist, when people mock too much with things that I’ve created as an artist. It’s like creating a painting and someone goes and then just decides to change the color of the house.
Chris: Yeah. That reminds me when someone makes a really nice meal and you grab your plate of food and then put seasoning all over it. It kind of reminds me of that too. I always find that insulting and so when I’m at someone’s house having dinner I don’t do that people. It’s like this tastes good just how you made it, I’ll just have it this way.
Scott: Yeah. Absolutely.
Chris: So that’s one thing I really noticed about your airplanes. When I go in and fly them in a simulator is really a lot of these little details are in there that you just don’t get anywhere else but it comes from this core functionality which is Accu-Sim where it’s all just being done realistically and you as a pilot, most of this is transparent to you. You don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes but you know, unlike other airplanes, you know in this airplane that whatever you do is going to have consequences.
And even the simple things, like the other day I was sitting in the ramp, I was taking too much time trying to figure out why the heck the airplane wouldn’t start up. I’m not used to a 172 with fuel injections so I was trying to figure all that out and find out what I had broke realistically in the simulator to get that fixed, and then my window started to fog up. And I was sitting there for too long in the cockpit and it started to get hazy so what I did was I looked over and I opened my side window there and then the fog started to go away in the cockpit. So all those little immersion factors just play to the believability of the simulation and really, I mean, that’s what you’re after at the end of the day. If you can achieve that and help the pilot forget for even a few seconds that this is not real…
Scott: Yes. That’s it. I call them immersion killers. You can make something great but if you have an immersion killer in there. Let’s just say the propeller animation doesn’t look right, that’s an immersion killer. You’re looking at the propeller all the time. You never lose yourself in the simulation if the propeller doesn’t look right. It’s like “Wait a minute, that’s not a propeller. That’s a graphic.” So you’re spot on with that. That will ruin a huge team effort. Most people would hopefully kind of look beyond that but they’d be really pounding, “Guys, we got to do something about this stupid propeller. It’s driving me nuts. They don’t look like this,” that kind of stuff.
Chris: And it goes way back, right? It goes back to that smoke from that explosion that you were talking about with that other developer that this just makes sense. Why doesn’t it look the correct way? So you guys do a fantastic job with just so many of those little details in the airplanes.
Scott: It’s one thing to be a pilot, okay that’s one thing. It’s not necessary to be a pilot to make a great simulator but it helps. Definitely, it puts the icing in the cake. But it’s the observing I think where most people fall short. They fail to observe things that like you said, the smoke. Sometimes, if the smoke isn’t, “Wait a minute, smoke doesn’t swirl like that. It kind of moves around like this and it fades. It doesn’t just kind of fade out and go pop and pop out.” That’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about.
Chris: So, what are you guys working on these days because you guys kind of moved from doing a lot of these Warbird stuff. It kind of seems like a natural transition through the years. You went from doing the combat flight simulator stuff and then you grew up and started doing these Warbirds within Microsoft Flight Simulator and then you came out with the little taildragger. Tell us kind of from that little taildragger to where we are now. And I know what it is but I’m going to let you talk about it.
Scott: Well you’re talking about J3?
Chris: Yes, yeah.
Scott: Well, I first just want to make clear. When we look at airplanes, we just see a flying machine. I see it all the same. Whether it’s a jet or whether it’s a propeller or whether it’s a twin. It could even be a rocket sitting on a Launchpad. We’re talking about aerodynamics and propulsion. A lot of people think “Oh, you’ve kind of gone away from Warbirds.” It’s like “Look, we love Warbirds but we love Warbirds because they’re fantastic airplanes. We don’t have to shoot guns to be entertained by Warbird. And the way I look at it is if, and most people are just excited to sit inside of a Warbird let alone fly it. So if somebody goes inside your simulator and they’re not excited to look around the cockpit, then you got to stop and let’s not even go past this point.
This is where Rob came in when we first started making with the models way back when, is that that’s got to be exciting. And then of course, it’s exciting to start even a Cessna-172 in real life. So if it’s not exciting in the sim, you’re really missing something. It might not be shaking right. It might not be squeaking or rattling. Everybody is crazy about Warbirds so we ended up doing the J3. Trying to think what made us originally, trying to think where the inspiration on the J3 came from. I think it was we really wanted to, a lot of people before the J3 were thinking “Oh Accu-Sim is just damage battling and I don’t want to want that. I don’t want to go through all the realism it has.”
Unfortunately, we were being painted with the same brush that people were experiencing from developers prior to us that used the term realistic or authentic and all that meant was it’s too hard and I have no fun flying this thing and it’s too complicated, it’s not well designed. It’s just not fun. And the fact is planes are fun. A glider is fun, a J3 is fun. So if it’s not fun, and they’re easy too. A J3, it’s like a model airplane. It’s got an electrical system in it right? So I think what we did is we said “Screw it. We’re going to Accu-Sim a J3.” And the exact response we got was what we were expecting. “J3, what’s the Accu-Sim?” I’m like “Well, you’re going have to just wait.” And when that thing came out, we never heard that again, that “What’s the Accu-Sim?” It never came out again. It’s a very popular product.
Chris: That’s when the light went on for everyone, where they really truly understood what Accu-Sim was doing.
Scott: For most people yes. They still tend to think real equals complicated. Well I think real equals easy. I think math physics equals complicated. That’s complicated to me. We’re trying to do a proper landing, flare the aircrafts in landing and getting the proper feel or stall, stuff like that. So we did the J3 and the reason why we got into general aviation of the Cessna was primarily because of the Comanche purchase, the Piper Comanche. That really got me back into active aviation. I stepped out of active aviation because I have a family and it just was expensive to keep it going. My kids are kind of grown up and it became harder and harder for me to really push further than we needed to. I’m a pilot but I wasn’t really actively flying like five years ago. So I got really back into it big time and decided to get a complex high performance plane and get all that experience.
The goal with the Comanche was two years. In two years, actually it was 18 months. I gave myself 18 months to get to know this airplane backwards and forwards. And it reminded when I was a kid with my Pontiac Trans AM, I built the whole thing. Everything that was on that car, I bolted it on. The whole interior, the whole dashboard, the instruments, everything. I’d had fenders off and engine out numerous times, transmission breaks, you name it, exhaust, the whole thing.
Now, I wanted to know the Comanche like that Trans Am, and I’m happy to say “Well, the Comanche is actually a lot more complicated than Pontiac Trans Am. You know, two years later, I know a lot about this airplane. I mean, I know as much about this airplane as anybody I know. So that’s where I wanted to be and I wanted to be like this high performance traditional complicated, like a Bonanza. It could have been a Bonanza or it could have been a Comanche, and I was looking at Bonanzas as well. It could have been the same difference. I just needed to be very much at home with all the systems and it’s a great move. I was little apprehensive at first, thinking “Yeah, this is a big investment. Make sure we’re doing this right.” Not to really buy, you could actually rent but what a great move because when you own the plane, you care about everything especially when you’re flying your family in that plane.
That’s what I’m saying. I can’t have anybody touch the plane. I just have to know what was done. Like I got to check over the work to make sure that things are put on right. It’s not a lack of trust. It’s not I’m not willing to take any chances of something going wrong, but it’s this persistence that got me into the mechanics and helped immeasurably with the Cessna-172. And Redbird Simulations who does a lot of professional simulators throughout the United States in the world were bugging us for years to do 172 and I said “Guys, it’s not just the right time which is we’re not there right now, we’re working on something else.” We’re working at P-51 at that time. And the time finally came.
I gave them a call. I said “Guys, guess what, we’re making a 172” and they were like “Hooray. Great!” So we made it and we said “We’re going to put it out and whatever we put out to the public, we can license back to you guys and you can use it.” Oh, and it was cub spinning, the spinning of the cub was the reason why Redbird, and they actually used our cub. They said “How do you do this?” But we need that. That kind of dynamic. So the 172 and we did it because that was the most popular plane and most people would know how it flew and it would really hold our feet to the fire and it would really force us to put out the heat. No way we could get away with anything being off without some guy, some instructor, and there are a lot of instructors that fly.
In fact, at Oshkosh, you would just would not believe the amount of people who just didn’t realize this fidelity was possible and they’re instructors who come out there and flying from various flight schools, stuff like that. They want the plane, they want it. Then the Cherokee, that was my first plane. I love the Cherokee. I think it’s one of the greatest airplanes ever made. When you consider what it does, what its mission was and how to accomplish it. You could say the same thing about the Cessna-172 and you could actually say the same thing about the Cessna-182 that we just put out for all very different reasons, and we knew we’re going to get hit with this. It’s 182, isn’t it just a big Cessna-172? And they even do an experienced dive to kind of scan the airport. You might mix up a 182 and 172 and high wing Cessnas but as soon as you start walking up to the plane and as soon as you open the door and then of course, you start the engine, you realize “Well, this is definitely not a 172.”
I was so happy. I’ve always wanted to fly a Skylane. It’s just for all these two years flying my Comanche, I love my Comanche but we have a lot of Skylanes out there. You see these owners. Skylane is not an aircraft you can rent commonly. It’s very uncommon to find rentable. So I just didn’t have the opportunity to fly it but I always loved that big bulbous nose in that thing and it’s just a tough-looking airplane. So I found one up in Bedford Massachusetts, had the G-1000 in it, and I was really trying to find a Steam game version, really hard. I found one that was further away but it wasn’t the T, it was the S. I wanted to fly the T. And I said “Okay, fine. We’ll the do the G-1000.” I flew up there and got checked out and all that stuff. And I’m actually glad I did because when it came to doing a flight dynamics, the G-1000 had tremendous benefits for its precision. Of course, it records everything on a per degree accuracy so you put the camera right in that G-1000.
I mean even if I wanted to, it’s got the USB. You can actually take the USB and plug it in and look at the actual data. But what I did was just stuck a camera right on both of those G-1000s high def and kept the pages up. So I was able to grab things like cylinder head temperature behavior and warm up times and all sorts of great information. Great avionics.
Chris: And to me, the 182 separates itself from the 172 in that you’re kind of getting outside of it being a training aircraft and now you’re getting into it being a commuter aircraft or kind of an IFR workhorse. That’s how I personally approach this and yeah, the 172 is still very useful for me. I can still go up and I can do training flights in it, things like that, but the 182, that’s where IFR starts to get really quite realistic and actually doing those long crosscountries especially with a lot of the integration that you guys have with some of the aftermarket GPS that are integrated where you can just go in and enable them.
Scott: It was a big team effort on that one and a lot of work contacting everybody and make sure everything works right. People were hounding us about it in the forums. They really wanted it and I’m trying to explain “Geez, it’s not that easy to support this stuff.” But I’m very proud to be a part of the organization and to have put what we just put out. You always get nervous before a release. You just never know, the biggest fear is a big bug that got through. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. It usually shouldn’t happen but you always have that fear or something crazy happens at launch and maybe people aren’t getting the zip files or something and they’re kind of corrupt so you have to do all these checks. But the launch went very smoothly. And from what I’m reading, everyone was responding they get it. You’re a Bonanza flier so you look at the 182 with equal respect. I mean, the thing is just a phenomenal airplane.
Chris: And it has its own separate mission. There are things the 182 and the Cessnas can do that the Beechcraft or the Bonanzas can’t do and it’s funny that now they’re kind of the same company but realistically, they come from a different lineage. But the 182, it’s a fantastic airplane so along those lines, it’s been received well. It seems like it has. It seems like a lot of people are creating their own repaints for it, things like that, it seems like they love it.
Scott: We had to really go deep into the cylinder head temperature, the exhaust gas temperature and the variable speed prop. Accu-Sim models the engine efficiency, the low RPM, high manifold pressure relationship which actually, you don’t get them like the modern aircraft like the Cirusses and the Lancair, you got that single lever approach. Actually I might be wrong. Does Lancair have a single lever?
Chris: I don’t know. Yeah, it depends. It depends if it’s FADEC or not.
Scott: But even like all the new diesel engines that are coming out.
Chris: Yeah. Diesels are all FADEC.
Scott: I love diesel engines but I personally, I want to run the engine at the lowest possible RPM at the highest possible manifold pressure through that RPM because the engine just runs, to me it’s quiet, and that’s the way the engine wants to run. And with these older technology planes that we have that have the prop lever, I’m not against technology, I know it’s all going out there but it’s too bad they don’t have sort of override because I’d be overriding them all the time.
My Comanche, my favorite cruise setting is 1800 RPM 25 inches, that’s my cruise setting. So people are like “Oh you’re crazy. That’s so over stress, that can be so bad for the engine.” I was like “Tell that to my mechanic. I’ve got a great compression, I burn very little oil and the engine is just purring and it’s loving it. Lycoming is okay with it, I have contact with the engineers there and people that who are in the know will say “Actually, that’s the best way to run the engine.” I want people now for the first time experiencing that and if you are to dial and even go by the charts 2000, 2100, 2200, 2300 RPM and dial in the right, the same percentage of horsepower, so you say you want to do a 60% horsepower, 2400-RPM with 60% horsepower at 2000 RPM, you’ll produce the same horsepower and the same speed but the difference is the one at 2000 would be burning less fuel. And that to me is fantastic. And it’s quieter. I love a quiet cockpit. I don’t like having a cockpit screaming loud the whole time and everyone getting vibrated to death in the aircraft.
Chris: That’s even worth a couple of extra knots you know just to enjoy the experience and not get
rattled to death.
Scott: No. I love pulling that prop back. As soon as I’m wheels up, I’m bringing it back to 24 squared almost immediately and then I’m sort of climbing out and then as soon as I’m getting to like 1000 feet, I’m already dialing that thing back especially in the hot weather because the cylinder head temperature just keep going up and up and up and up and of course they have the cylinder head temperature behavior now so they’re experiencing the same thing and the camel flaps. It’s another system that you have to get in your head and you have to have part of your operation or use in your workflow.
Chris: One last question I want to ask you before I let you go is what do you think the future of flight simulation is? Where do you see it going?
Scott: We have a very clear idea where we’re going and I guess that’s one of those questions that
I don’t really want to answer because this is stuff that we talk about just internally where we’re taking it if I were to say I think the next big thing in sim is x, y and z, basically telling everybody out there, the competitors, where we’re going.
Chris: I don’t want you to do that.
Scott: No, nor do we.
Chris: So speaking of Prepar3D, what are your thoughts on Prepar3D as a platform for the future?
Scott: Prepar3D has been outstanding for the community and also for FSX because Prepar3D has infiltrated the military and the commercial industries. It’s everywhere and it’s entrenched and it’s out there and it’s a stable platform like the Redbird Flight Simulators. So when you have that strong, professional industry based on Microsoft Flight Simulator X, we can now develop simultaneously for training and for entertainment. The way we look at it is Prepar3D is so solid in the professional flight training that it’s virtually given almost legs to FSX and vice-versa.
If you’re flying FSX and you like it, stick with it. You’re great. Prepar3D is not going anywhere and I don’t think FSX is going anywhere either because now we have Dovetail Games pick it up and this could be going on Steam. So when you consider where FSX has come from, millions and millions of development dollars and man hours over the decades have sunk into that platform and I don’t think this flight sim is every going to be seen in the level that we’re seeing right now with both Prepar3D and FSX, so it’s all great.
Chris: Great. We’re going to wrap up the show here. Do you have any other final thoughts or advice for would be pilots or simulator pilots out there?
Scott: No other than it’s just a great time for flight simulation. It’s been a great time for the last five years, it’s been a good time and I’d see the next five years being better. Who knows it can be better. And also as a company, we’ve been growing every single year, so that’s been a good thing too for flight sim.
Chris: Definitely. Alright, well keep up the fantastic work. You guys are making waves here and we like to see that.
Scott: Alright Chris. Thanks.
Chris: Okay. So I hope you guys enjoyed that as much as I did. I’ve been trying to get Scott on this show for a while now. He and I finally met face to face after all these years at Oshkosh this last August, so it’s finally good to have him on the show and learn a little bit more about his background and also see that they are having great success with their most recent products, and especially this most recent product with the 182. I’ve put these aircrafts in my simulator and I really like this stuff. If I’m going to go out and I’m going to do some flight training maneuvers and some basic stuff, then this is the type of airplane that I want to fly.
Now, seeing that I’m going to go out and do flight training stuff and basic stuff, it doesn’t mean that this is a basic aircraft. As with Scott’s explanation throughout his interview, this is top-notch quality stuff. I am constantly doing things in the simulator that the get-me consequences like I would get in the real world where I’m failing up my sparkplugs or I’m getting carbon deposits on my magnetos or not doing the preflight correctly to where my engine just doesn’t start up or I didn’t preheat my engine. All these little consequences that you really don’t get from other simulations, you get with this stuff, and I really, really love being in there and being immersed in this experience and it’s actually something that you can’t get from many airplanes and it just so happens that it’s a great 172 and 182 and as I mentioned, the 172 is a great aircraft. I wouldn’t go out and really use the 182 for training. I’d go out and I’d use it for crosscountry type of flying and IFR type of flying because it’s very capable in those scenarios. So this is kind of what we’re looking at here. A2A, they make absolutely awesome quality products. You can check them out at A2Asimulations.com.
Scott, thank you so much for coming on this show. We really enjoyed having you and we wish you all the best success in the future. We know that based on your track record, whatever you choose to do, it’s going to be awesome. So we’re really happy to hear that it’s gone well so far and we cannot wait to see what you come up with next because it will be up to A2A standard which is a standard in and of itself. So again thank you and we hope to have you back in the show sometime.
Now for some aftershow AviatorCast actions. You can take a survey, you can take this quick 2-minute survey by going to Survey.AviatorCast.com. Here you can give us ideas for upcoming shows. I do monitor those and I do use them, so that’s how we came up with a lot of these interviews and a lot of these ideas outside of our own ideas too but that’s a place where you can kind of direct the show and share with us.
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So if you’d like to check out any of our training products here at Angle of Attack for flight simulation, you can head to FlyAOAmedia.com. Start with the basics for free with Aviator90, learn instrument flying and more with AviatorPro or even fly many of the world’s most popular jets virtually with our training products for the 737, 747, 777 and MD-11 again at FlyAOAmedia.com and for you A2A customers out there, you A2A 172 and 182 flyers, go ahead and check out Aviator90 and Aviator Pro. I think those will be right up your alley. There’s really nothing to lose with Aviator90, it’s completely free and you get real knowledge from real pilots on how to fly and you can do that by watching great entertaining videos, so go ahead and go sign up for that. Also, Angle of Attack offers professional video services at AngleofAttackPro.com. Just write us there to talk about your project. We’d be happy to discuss that with you.
Alright now in closing, many thanks go out to the Angle of Attack crew for all of their hard work to make this episode possible and all they do outside of AviatorCast so we can have great interviews with people like Scott. And most of all, thank you for joining us on this episode of AviatorCast. We are truly grateful to have you here, part of our community and so engaged in this wonderful passion for flying things. Until next time, throttle on!
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