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Mike Gilbert - Demonstration of Flight Simulator 2004

12 minutes, 21 seconds


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We didn't realize it, but Flight Simulator is 25 years old. We don't know whether its birthday was in October or November, but Bruce Artwick started Flight Simulator as his master's thesis project back in 1979. Here's a picture of all the different Flight Simulator box designs over the years.

But, back to our little tour of the Flight Simulator team. Today Steve Lacey takes us into the office of Mike Gilbert, lead program manager, where he takes us into the clouds.

Why the clouds? Well, it wouldn't be "as real as it gets" if the clouds didn't look good, would it?

He also shows us how the DC-3's navigation panel (the one that was purchased on eBay) was used in the latest Flight Simulator.

If you want to see how far Flight Simulator has come in 25 years, check out the Flight Simulator History site. 25 years ago that beautiful sky was just a single line.


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  • Wow, I watched the first segment, hit refresh, and the second one popped up. Sweet!

    I enjoyed this video a lot. The flight sim team definitely occupies an interesting place at Microsoft. I mean, they obviously don't really fit in with the people writing MS's business or development apps, but then again, they aren't really "game" developers either.

    The constant incremental upgrades, and the fact that most of their work goes into including the tiniest of details, makes Flight Simulator more like an Office product than a video game. At the same time, they get to work with a huge variety of talent and face a very interesting set of challenges.

    One other thing. When I watch the Channel 9 videos, I seem to be constantly thinking of questions I wish would be asked but never are. Is there any way to suggest questions for upcoming interviews?
    Like with this video, I really wanted to ask if any of these people would trust themselves to a pilot who's only experience with a specific plane was in the simulator. I mean, theoretically, a person can actually teach themselves how to fly on this product. I've always thought it would be cool to play it for a while, just to get myself to the point where I think I could really fly in an emergency (don't ask me how that would happen).

    It also would have been interesting to get someone's take on WHY they think it's fun to play the game. I just don't really like simulators because they can be so tedious, but it would be cool to hear someone from the team make an argument for why they love to fly.

  • scobleizerscobleizer I'm the video guy
    Actually, the best way to ask additional questions is how you just did it. I'll make sure Steve Lacey over on the Flight Sim team sees this.

    By the way, the Boeing Flight Sims are very accurate and I'd trust a pilot who learned to fly in one.
  • Thanks man, I appreciate it!

    I've actually had a chance to try out a couple of Northwest's full-motion flight simulators, and they are awesome. It's strange, because when they engage motion, you get the exact same feeling you get when you take off in a real plane. And while the graphics are definitely not as detailed as MS's, they have 3d projection systems that give a very convincing feeling of depth. To the point that, when flying at night, it is nearly impossible to convince your brain that you're not looking through a window of some kind. Of course, that didn't help my landing any:)

    My point is that I know those simulators are good. But flying a plane after having only flown MS's flight simulator, that would be an interesting challenge.

  • Scoble - stupid question, how did you get rid of the refresh lines on the monitor?
  • ZippyVZippyV Fired Up
    I have a question for the team: Why was Train Sim 2 cancelled?
  • Greater MonsterGreater Monster Deconstruct! (Jacques Derrida 1930-2004)
    The Channel 9 Team wrote:
    We didn't realize it, but Flight Simulator is 25 years old.

    Hurray, congrats, wishing you many more *opens a bottle of Blanton's single barrel, no ice*

    Actually, the only version I ever played was on the Commodore 64. I'm not sure even, but it was a flight sim and it was programmed in C64 Basic. You could stop the program and see the listing. I ran it trough a compiler once and you got this ultra-light speed plane (in other words, it went so fast that a second after you started the engines you crashed (on the moon by my estimates, or Alpha Centauri if you missed it)).
  • ZippyV wrote:
    I have a question for the team: Why was Train Sim 2 cancelled?

    Good question.

    I thought TS1 did well .. I really enjoyed it anyway ..
  • iStationiStation Fuujin
    Wonderful Video!
    Fly me to the moon ♪♪♪
  • WayneBWayneB Got my own Far Side comic.
    What a great way to train Terrorists how to fly. I wonder, if this software weren't available what else is comparable?
  • WayneB wrote:
    What a great way to train Terrorists how to fly. I wonder, if this software weren't available what else is comparable?

    That was NEVER proven .. just something the media made up.
  • SteveLaSteveLa Steve
    The biggest difference is the motion you get in a real aircraft/full motion sim.  Flight Sim can definitely help in training though (in fact the Navy uses Flight Sim). (disclaimer: though it's not to be used as a training aid, standard EULA stuff, etc... Wink

    At a recent flight sim conference, the attendees got to fly UAL's full motion sims and did quite well apparently, suprising the instructors.

  • I'm surprised Boeing (and Airbus) don't work more closely with you guys, giving you the same high quality data used to make the REAL full motion flight sim. They have nothing to lose and it could help train real flight pilots, it at least doesn't do them any harm.

    I wish you guys had more brands of commercial airlines on board .. I mean so you can fly a Virgin plane or whoever you might fly with.. It isn't a big deal, but I also don't think the commercial airlines would charge you to use their logos .. I mean free product placement? Who would turn THAT down?  
  • Even most monkeys could fly a Boeing with a day or two's training.
  • Well, first things first. You don't PLAY flight sim. This is an extremely popular hobby. I belong to a Virtual Airline called Independent Airlines (www.iair.co.za) which is part of a Flight Simulator club called Virtual Aviation Club Swartkops or VACS (www.vacs.org.za) for short. VACS and various other Flight sim clubs across South Africa are then affiliated to a national body called Association of Virtual Aviation of South Africa or AVA-SA (www.ava.org.za) which is a member of the Aero Club of South Africa through which members from the Clubs and VA's can get national sports colors after completing exams similar in nature than what real private pilots have to write.
    This is starting to happen globally. France was the first country to offer national colors to Virtual Pilots and South Africa second.

    We don't PLAY Flight Sim, we FLY Flight Sim.

    Go check out sites like www.avsim.com, www.flightsim.com, http://www.tony.smiths.btinternet.co.uk/fsgate1.html">">http://www.tony.smiths.btinternet.co.uk/fsgate1.html"> www.simviation.com, http://www.tony.smiths.btinternet.co.uk/fsgate1.html,
    http://www.pmstone.com/, http://www.projectai.com/ etc to see how big this market segment has become just supporting freeware.
    Then go look at sites such as www.precisionmanuals.com, www.flight1.com,  etc to see what high quality payware products exist.


  • rhmrhm
    Well... you know the old joke: That a modern airliner can be flown by one man and a dog. The man is there to feed the dog. The dog is there to bite the man if he tries to touch the controls.
  • What's a Lead Program Mananger?
  • DuckDuck Electronic Medical Duck
    Great Video!  My Ex is an airbus 300 pilot for Fedex and part of the arrangment was for me to learn about jets.  He sat me down with Flight Simulator on Windows 95, so that will tell you how long ago it was.  At any rate, in visiting the Fedex Complex being the good partner, I had the opportunity to actually fly an Airbus 300 simulator.  I did better than I thought I would, and it was due to sitting down with Flight Simulator, coupled with the training manual information I had picked up just by helping him study the material needed to make the transition from B747 console to the Airbus. You can learn the basics of flying with Flight Simulator and then some!  Anyway, long and short of this is that I would have never had the opportunity to fly a real simulator if it had not been for Flight Simulator.  He still flies jets and I program with MS Access these days.  Again, great story and great product.  

    B. A Duck 
  • tdraggertdragger This is not me
    Ah, Microsoft Access--near and dear to my heart. I still get a chance to flex my Access muscles on Flight Sim, though not with anything that ships in the game. -mike

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