Fanboy Friday: A Decade With Wings

I swore to myself that I wouldn’t get all sappy with some kind of “year in review” schmaltz, nor would I mention the dreaded r-word this year. Mostly, I’m a forward-looking guy, after all. But while walking my dogs in the soggy park this evening, I got to thinking about all the things that have changed in my life since I first discovered flight simming. And wouldn’t you know it; counting backwards, I discovered that I’ve been doing the simulation thing for just about ten years now. Forgive me, but there’s just no way I can resist a milestone as juicy as that.

Never let anyone tell you fate doesn’t exist. It was the year 2000, the dreaded Y2K, and I was in a computer store with my son. I’d been in high-tech for about six years by then, but had never been much interested in gaming on the PC. As my kid searched for his next role-playing obsession, I perused the gaming aisle. Gazing across the boxes, my eye stopped on a copy of Microsoft’s Combat Flight Simulator 1. What the heck, I thought, it’s cheap enough, and it could be a lark. I got an inexpensive joystick to go with it, and headed for the checkout stand. Little did I know what had just happened.

Antelope Trail Ranch - my first FS scenery

Antelope Trail Ranch - where it all began!

Most of you reading this are in to ‘simming, so you know what came next. After flying in CFS for a while, I picked up a copy of Flight Simulator 2000 and started monkeying around with the 747, learning about ILS approaches and how to set up the autopilot. Then came the need for a yoke and rudder pedals. Then I found that I needed a faster computer. Then I started wondering how cool it would be to set up my own cockpit at home. And then… well, then I was a goner.

Reading Regional Airport - my first large-scale project

Reading Regional Airport - my first large-scale project

Even though I was having a blast, my enthusiasm for sim flying might have waned over the next year or two if I hadn’t discovered the online FS community. Instead of moving on to other hobbies, I got further enmeshed (so to speak) in the FS world as I began to download, collect, and finally create my own bush-flying sceneries. Once I uploaded my first project in December 0f 2002 and got a positive reaction from my fellow fliers, I began to plan more, bigger, and better projects. Flightsim went from a hobby to an obsession.

The Normandy American Cemetery - freeware for MAAM-SIM

The Normandy American Cemetery - freeware for MAAM-SIM

And what an obsession! Over the years, I’ve crisscrossed the United States, attending FS conferences in Philadelphia, Denver, San Diego, and Seattle. I’ve not only made hundreds of new friends in online forums, I’ve gotten to meet quite a few of them in person at one point or another. It’s funny, but the stereotype of a computer gamer is a sad loner, holed up in his room with a stack of empty pizza boxes, fragging bad guys on-screen. In my experience with ‘simmers, we’re a gregarious lot — about as far as you can get from that image.

PAWG, for Aerosoft's "Freight Dogs" (FS9)

PAWG, for Aerosoft's "Freight Dogs" (FS9)

Thanks to my FS buddies, I’ve blurred the line between sim and reality by getting to fly a Level-D full-motion 737 simulator at the 2004 Avsim Conference. Then I erased the line altogether in 2005, when I started taking real-world flight lessons. I’ll never forget my first solo cross-country, cruising alone at 10,000 feet over Oregon’s coast range. Behind me, the snowy peaks of the Cascade range glowed, in front, I could see the dark blue expanse of the Pacific. It would not be exaggerating to say that I owed that experience to my fateful encounter with CFS1 years before.

Hawaii Dillingham X - my first foray into FSX

Hawaii Dillingham X - my first foray into FSX

At the risk of sounding crass, FS has become a hell of a business for me, as well as a source of pleasure. Yes, there are much easier ways to make money. The FS add-on market is small and fractured, and yet over the years my scenery-building income has steadily grown in proportion to the other things I do, to the point where I can devote a substantial block of time to it each week. Even as the world economy collapsed and Microsoft announced they were disbanding the Aces team, 2009 was my best year yet as far as scenery sales went. For that, I owe every one of you out there an enormous thank-you.

Petersburg Seaplane base, Tongass Fjords X

Petersburg Seaplane base, Tongass Fjords X

I thank you not just for ponying up your hard-earned cash for my work, but for being enthusiastic, and sharing with others your joy at using those sceneries. There’s nothing quite so gratifying as seeing a series of screenshots of my work shared by a happy customer with his friends.

Okay, that’s about enough rambling. Let me just say once again how thankful I am for the tremendous community that’s centered around digital flight. You guys and gals make it more than a hobby, more than a job–you make it fun. And, to quote Arthur Bach, isn’t fun the best thing to have? I’ve got a whole box full of great projects for the coming year, some of which are darned near ready for release. Stay tuned and watch this space, because as good as the oughts were, the next decade is going to blow your socks off!

Next up: Stark's Twin Oaks for Orbx Pacific Northwest

Next up: Stark's Twin Oaks for Orbx Pacific Northwest - Coming in 2010!

Happy New Year, everyone. Let’s all remember to take care of one another, and along the way, let’s enjoy ourselves.

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10 responses to “Fanboy Friday: A Decade With Wings

  1. Thank You Bill! Happy Healthy New yr to you and your family!! Can’t wait for Twin Oaks!
    Cheers!

  2. Have a blessed new year.

  3. Alright, so I did it. I used the dreaded ‘r’ word you speak of.

    One thing I have been saying in various places (I follow many blogs) is that resolutions are a bit silly. Why can’t every day be a forward thinking and goal setting day?

    Funny how most of my resolutions were to finish things already in process.

    As far as my CocaCola habit and my ever-growing turkey neck… maybe I should take care of that.

    10 Years! Wow… I’m afraid I’ve only been around, heavily, since the release of FS2004 is 2002.

    Your story resonates with a lot of people and I feel as though we all share that common thread. This hobby took me by surprise too.

    I can’t even imagine where we’ll be 10 years from now! It’s going to be incredible.

    Congratulations on a successful year. Tongass is the first place of choice that I load up. I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. With additions like the A2A Piper Cub, it just makes that area that much more cool.

    Thanks for your contributions, passion, and your space in this community. It just wouldn’t be the same without you around, Bill.

  4. @Patrick – Thanks! The wait is nearly over.

    @Dexter – Emma… I knew I was forgetting something. Not. 😉

    @Chad – Thanks, bro.

    @Chris – Resolutions are fine, but I’ve developed an allergy to them. I’ll settle for just plugging away this year. Thanks for your comment, and all of the others you post. It’s nice to have an active, communicative community!

  5. Aidan "acezboy561"

    Hey Bill,
    Didnt plan to buy PNW, but I really wanted your scenery so I guess ill be buying PNW Terrian and Twin Oaks 🙂

    Cheers,
    Aidan.

  6. You won’t regret it, Aidan. Besides, I’ve got several projects on deck for the PNW area, so you’ll be doing yourself a favor by giving them all an excellent base to start with.

  7. Nice article Bill! I also started my hobby back in y2k, with FS2000. Actually I wanted to start it earlier with FS98, but didn’t have a computer to run it back then. I have really nice memories of my first flights with default Cessna over Hong Kong at dusk 🙂

  8. The best of the New Year to you Bill. My first exposure to Flight Sim was not made by Microsoft. It had some rudimentary instruments on the bottom and a stick figure represented the airplane. No place for a rivet counter and Plum Island Airport would be lost.
    Things are somewhat improved over the past twenty years. Now I’m concerned that the Russians didn’t do the L-19 right

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