AVSIM 2004 Convention and Exhibition Report

by Miro Majcen, Chief Managing Editor, AVSIM Online

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Our host city, Denver, Colorado with its majestic Rocky Mountains in the background
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The United Airlines Training Center, as seen from the Convention's DoubleTree Hotel
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Two enthusiastic AVSIM staffers serving Convention attendees, Kathryn Whitwell (Victoria, Canada) and Matt Johnson (London, UK)

Exhibitions, United Sim Flying and Awards Dinner

It is funny how years start to fly once you get over certain age. Well I'm not that old yet, it just feels like we've just finished last year's event in Reading and September was here again for AVSIM 2004 Convention and Exhibition , this time held in beautiful Denver, Colorado.

Another great location, easily accessible, even for those of us who flew in from all over the world. Some of the countries outside US, I noticed, were UK, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Norway, Argentina, Australia, South Africa, France, Canada, Slovenia and probably some more. As you can see this really is becoming an international event. So why do you think everyone flew to Denver? It would be nice to hear the answers from those attending as we tried to prepare something for everyone.

It all started on Friday with exhibitors setting up their booths for two full days of exhibition time. As you can see from images below some of them even decided to bring that great FS hardware we all want to have and dream about. The biggest one this year was by the staff of Precision Flight Controls who actually trucked in their full size Boeing 737 cockpit. It is so big that hotel staff had to bring in an extra fork lift to transport it to the show grounds. Other exhibitors included Aerosoft with their latest set of products, GoFlight with new do it yourself boards for home cockpit builders, from Italy the new company founded by two old names in this hobby, Gates.to, displaying their fs.net tools, Captain Sim showcasing their current and upcoming products and their booth manned by Alex Pogensky, General Manager and Vera, his very personable assistant. Just next to them were PC Aviator, Microsoft, Just Flight, Bugeye technologies, Luftvarch hobby shop, Project Magenta, Abacus, and Flight 1. As you can see, all the big names in FS today.

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A view of the Convention Exhibition room
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Enjoying Bugeye technologies' wide-view display
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Another of the exhibits, Project Magenta displays
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Here's Precision Flight Control's (relatively) low-cost cockpit simulator for the commercial flight school market on display in the Convention Exhibition room
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Here's PFC's B-737 panel
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Another view inside Precision Flight Control's simulator

As the booths were prepared for their first visitors on Saturday, Friday afternoon marked the start of this year's biggest attraction for most of the attendees. As you know the location of the conference venue was chosen for one simple reason—proximity with the United Airlines Training Center, where their big full motion sims are located. And that's not all: AVSIM worked out an agreement with United to offer attendees an experience of lifetime—a flight in one of their full motion simulators including everything in their fleet, from Airbus 320, B727, B737, B767, B747 and more. We must say that a big THANK YOU goes to all hard working United staff for organizing and providing us with this opportunity. We were the first organization of non United employees who were allowed to fly in the sims after 9/11. Here's some images from a photo documentary of one of my visits to the site I prepared to provide you with a feeling how this looks:

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We must also say a big thanks to all of you who booked the sim rides, as there were no problems with the rules, and as we heard instructors were all simply amazed by the knowledge shown while on board. Sim rides went on for three days, from really early hours like 6am until 11pm; more than 180 hours of time were made available. All the United crew on campus at that time who were available for us were doing so in their free time, as volunteers, and they made it clear they were really happy to have us there. Simply amazing. Everyone walked out with a big smile and most turned into United's shop which had been opened over the weekend just for us. Talking with the ladies inside, simmers' shopping opportunities there extended their expectations and new stock of items had to be ordered from storage I think you will hear a lot of stories from those who attended the sim flying sessions in the following days; one you'll want to read now is Jonathan Sacks' and Bill Grabowski's account here. To me, this really was an experience I will never forget and my flights in 747, 767 and A320 were just great.

Ok, so most flew the sims and we really had to have a place where all those stories could be shared from day one. It all happened at the Friday Night Social, which has became a tradition and was again this year sponsored by Just Flight. Well, the party is not a party if there are no announcements—and just as last year there were a couple. These started with Tom Main of Flight1 suddenly on stage, and we all knew something interesting was about to be announced: everyone was simply amazed when a new version of the legendary 767 PIC was unveiled, scheduled for release in a month's time. You could hear happy simmers all over the place and the promotional video uploaded to our file library received more than 7000 downloads in first day after it was put online.

Saturday marked the official start of the exhibitions and presentations which went on for next two days. Our registration desk opened at 8am and AVSIM's hard working check-in crew (manned mostly by Kathryn and Robert Whitwell, Rick Rossner, Matt Johnson) who together with the rest of us had to work hard to get everyone in before the start. More pictures of exhibitions and activities there can be seen below.

So how about the presentations? Well, those are covered in a separate report here prepared by Maury Pratt, AVSIM's Editor At Large who was the MC for those sessions. I can tell you there were some great presentations from your fellow simmers, but also presentation and a big FS2004 Update announcement from Microsoft, and some real world things from United. To me most interesting presentation was the one by Jason Hartman about how Desktop sims compare to their full motion sim. Based on the experiences of four volunteer FS 'crews' Jason was able to discuss specifics regarding the quest for probably the most frequently asked question: Whether an experienced flight simmer could actually land the real bird. Wanna know the answer? Well, check it out and read what Maury has to say about it!

AVSIM Store and VMAX Fly Off contest finals and Awards Dinner on Saturday

As you can imagine, during an event like this time does go by fast, so everything had soon to be prepared for evening events. There were two.

Another tradition of AVSIM conferences by now is the flyoff contest finals; this time with a challenging situation, an approach with the new Captain Sim 707 cargo into Denver. GoFlight's Doyle Nickless explained the flight situation and guided dozens of simmers through qualification flights with his setup at the GoFlight/AVSIM/VMAX store booth throughout the day Saturday, and introduced the three finalists at the event at the end of the day. It was not an easy task for these finalists; crazy weather, failures and eyes of three judges on you—All of them real world pilots: Captain Brad Thomann of United Airlines, Doug Horton of Computer Pilot magazine, and Ray Miller, a former U.S. Coast Guard pilot. As you can see below it really wasn't easy. The winner this year, Kenneth Bohne, was rewarded with a brand new GoFlight GF-TQ6 throttle quad! (It turned out that Ken already had one—so he worked out a swap with GoFlight for some other modules.) Congratulations Kenneth!

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One of the biggest events every year is the Awards dinner where AVSIM announces and presents both our Lifetime Achievement award to the individual (or group) who has made exceptional contributions to our hobby, and our Bravo Zulu awards for those freeware offerings and commercial products released during the previous twelve months that our editors judge to be the "best of the best."

AVSIM Publisher Tom Allensworth announced AVSIM's 'Lifetime Achievement' award for 2004 to the three gentlemen who are the fathers of SquawkBox, Procontroller and the related Server System; Jason Grooms, Marty Bochane, and Joe Jurecka. Please read Tom's remarks about the events leading to these historic developments here.

The following are this year's 'Bravo Zulu' winners—Maury provides the specifics here:

Best Combat Simulator
Ubisoft's Lock-0n: Modern Air Combat (LOMAC)

Best Commercial Aircraft Package
PMDG 737NG by the PMDG Team

Best Freeware Aircraft
Maule M-760 by the FSNordic Team - Mikko Maliniemi, Steven Grant, Kari Virtanen, Ian Grant, Aaron Swindle, Thomas Foosnes, and Gerd R. Nehr

Best Freeware Panel (not included in an Aircraft package)
Ken Mitchell's FS2004 panels - Airbus, Boeing series

Best Commercial Scenery
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport by SimFlyers Associated

and also an Honorable mention: Manhattan by Aerosoft AG / Andras Kozma

Best Freeware Scenery
Holger Sandmann's Mesh-landclass enhancements for North America and Africa

But just before the winners were announced the time came for this years keynote speaker, Captain Frank Santoni, Boeing Chief 777 test pilot. Luckily no "Macarena" was playing next door this year, as we enjoyed details and an inside look at how Boeing actually performs flight testing including very interesting videos of tests such as stalls, ground effects, engine failures, and flutter testing performed at various destinations all over there world . (We'll see if we can provide you with some of the videos from Captain Santoni's talk). A really interesting presentation and a big thank you to Captain Santoni for bringing us close to the world of real life flight testing for birds we all fly on. I can say, those guys are really doing a great and dangerous job by exposing themselves to the extreme manouvers he described and 'over the top' tests like hard landings, full brakings and the like. Ouch! You can imagine the test's photographer ducking a seemingly on-coming 777 with a few of the severe cross-wind landings they flew.

For those who couldn't attend this conference—remarkable in so many ways—we want to share Tom Allensworth's remarks from his welcoming speech Saturday evening acknowledging those at United Airlines who made this event so special and marking this milestone in AVSIM's commitment to you, our readers.

Conclusions

I will conclude as I started. Time does go by fast and the days in Denver were just great. It was nice to see friends again, meet new simmers, spend some time in the Sports bar, enjoy in all sorts of sim and real life stories, hear interesting presentations and just having a great time, not to mention the beer and several paper airplane "flyoff competitions" form 9th floor (those attending will know) ;-)

I did mention a couple of traditions over this report and let me mention one more. Guess which one? I think this question first came up to me on Friday and as soon as I heard something along the lines: "Well, are you guys already thinking on next years event?" I knew this conference was a success!

Thank you everyone and see you next year!

 

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