It seems only yesterday we saw the release of what is arguably a spectacular Turboprop package for FSX. The detail is truly remarkable, the design rich in detail, all in a truly unique package.
Many will remember the -300 version which Majestic developed many years ago. Graphics were by now dated, but systems were still impressive to say the least.
So...Majestic? Who are these people who bring out a turboprop "their way"...trying to get around the many flaws in the FSX code to bring us an aircraft that is as popular in the real world as it is in our virtual world? How did they do it, what will they do next? Well, being the curious sod that I am, I reached out to the Majestic team (thanks Simeon!) and got a very impressive look at this very talented group of people, whose passion for aviation translates very well in our passion for virtual flight.
Oleksiy, what is your background? How did your love of aviation and programming begin?
This is somewhat a difficult question to answer, as neither my surroundings nor my parents had much input here. However this was probably God’s will. I do have a Private Pilot’s certificate as I do enjoy flying, and this has helped me in having a much better understanding while creating/programming any aviation related project that I work on. Programming is something that I was always fascinated with so when the time came to choose between continuing the studying to become a professional pilot, or choose a computer-related field of work I have chosen a thing in between, which is Flight Simulation
What came before Majestic? i.e., how did you get started in developing add-ons for Flight Simulation?
For those that are not fully aware of who Majestic Software really is, well originally, we entered the simulation arena with the introduction of the Fanda Dash 8 Q300 which was designed for MSFS 2002. Although the MSFS Dash 8 model was used, the aircraft model (for its time) a fairly detailed and functional simulation of the Dash 8 Q300. The premise behind its development was to help crew members to get a better understanding of the aircraft systems, although this project was in its infancy stages, if proved to be quite effective for procedural work. Although I was originally developing the Q300 for another project using FS 2002 as its platform, I decided to see how well the product would be received if I made it available to the FS Community.
What lessons were learnt from your previous ventures that enabled you to take Majestic to the next level?
Lessons learned, well that is really an open ended question as there are so many that we have learned over course of several years. Although technology is rapidly changing we have found ourselves working on a simulator platform that is aging, however there is still quite a bit of life left in the old girl. That being said we noticed from the creation of the Q300 which was originally developed for Fs2002 (Fanda Q300 - freeware) that flight simmers have had a continual yearning for complex aircraft systems and this has been evident in the creation of many different aircraft by many of the well-known and respected developers who have been in the game since FS 98.
At same time another developer was heavily involved in making a Q300 which was also for its time was a great release, but it was lacking something which decreased the level of immersion (accurate systems implementation and aircraft performance) which for the most part was not the fault of the developer but more so limitations imposed by the simulator platform. This became a critical eye-opener for me, and this is where the game changer for me took place. I now had to devise a way to reproduce the aircraft's performance as the MSFS’s turboprop engine was seriously flawed.
As I gained a better understanding of devising a way to work around the challenges of the platform I began to look closer into getting the systems and logic of the aircraft synced as close as possible to the real thing. From this point the learning curve has been continual as there are now so many ways of integrating additional functionality for projects through various modes of programming and 3D design.
What was the development cycle of the original Dash8-300? Who was in the team assisting you with development?
The development cycle of the Q300 was an interesting one as it was initially designed to assist crew members of a specific airline in having a better understanding of the systems within their Advanced Qualifications Program, which proved to be successful in more areas than the program was originally intended. The team then was comprised of myself and a select few (professionals who were certified on the aircraft - pilots, dispatchers and technical/maintenance personnel) initially, some of which are still a part of the crew).
As some may remember the Fanda Dash 8 Q300, was my primary introduction to the turbo-prop realm within MSFS. As the Dash gained its popularity, it revealed to us that a full-fledged add-on should be introduced, thus the creation of the Majestic Software product-line.
What was the selling point for the Dash8-300, was it accuracy in simulation? The fun factor? Depth of systems? What did you try to achieve?
The selling point for the Dash 8 Q300 was a quite simple. The aim was to create an add-on that was almost a mirror image of its real world counterpart, and to do so we emphasized on systems logic and accuracy, in doing so the fun factor took its own form.
In your view, how close to "the real thing" was the Dash8-300? Were you satisfied with the finished product?
The Q300 being the flagship of Majestic Software was the first add-on which I am to this day still very pleased and proud of. As far as being close to the real thing, well, this is always a matter of opinion, but working very closely with a select few of the team members (Q300 Captains) we were able to get the flight model as close to the real thing performance and systems integration wise, minus actual feel of the external forces. I'd say that we were able to get the aircraft to about 90% functionality of its real world counterpart.
Your newest product, the Q400, why did you decide to stay with the Dash8 line? Ease of access to documentation? Access to other resources? Love of the airplane?
Well the Q400 was always a part of projects to be completed which took us a bit longer to complete than we had projected, but everything happens for a reason. The original modeler for the Q400 was unable to continue with the project which created an unexpected challenge, which we eventually overcame.
Documentation access can at times be a bit of a challenge, but it is critical before deciding to work on a project that one is able to acquire documentation from the proper resource channels, or at least work with professionals that use and or have access to documentation.
Your product has quite a few innovations in regards to integration with the simulator platform. Was this always the plan? What changed as different people and resources came aboard?
After the Q300 project, the decision was made to implement things a bit differently. The turbo prop platform within MSFS does create some challenges for proper development. In order to simulate the FDE of the Q300 with the level of complexity and realism some thinking outside of the box was used and choosing the JSBSIM platform within MSFS 2004. Since both the Q300 and Q400 aircraft were projects that had been created prior to fully implementing them into the MSFS platform, I decided to have a closer
d look at the JSBSim platform which had mounds of potential (for the Q400) in which I simply had to find a way of unleashing its capabilities into FSX.
The only thing that really changed when new personnel came on board was that new ideas started to come to light and we found ways of implementing them to make the product what it is today. Although the team is small we have a very talented group.
Can you describe what is different in your add-on in comparison to other modern FSX add-ons? What is involved in setting the FDE outside the simulator engine? What made you decide to do it this way?
The difference in our add-on in comparison to other FSX add-ons is relatively simple. We have utilized/implemented a different concept to the flight dynamics functionality of the Q400. As previously mentioned, this platform was used in another Q400 project that has been developed and worked really well beyond my expectations which intrigued me to further research implementing its usage within FSX.
The JSBSim platform is descended from the LARCSim flight dynamic framework which was used by NASA for some of their flight dynamics testing (X-series concept aircraft) and it allows for many additional variables of dynamics than FSX. While the Q400 relies heavily on Simconnect, this allows us to bridge the two platforms to become dependent on each other. This too is the cause for a fair amount of the flight sim community being a bit unhappy at this time for the lack of FSUIPC integration. In essence FSX really serves as a scenery module while JSBSim handles the specifics of the aircraft.
With all this said, there are several other challenges that have arisen for the virtual airlines flyers and users of some add-on utilities. Some of these issues can/will be addressed in future patches while some will unfortunately fall under the irreparable limitations of the Q400.
Can you introduce us to the other members of your team or external developers who assisted in the project, and what their role was?
The Majestic Team is comprised of only four members, who reside in various parts of the world
I presently reside in Portugal where I am the CEO of Majestic Software and the Lead Program Manager on the projects that we are currently involved in. I have an extensive programming background which has been instrumental in the development of the Majestic Software line of products. All systems programming and development fall under my portfolio
The mastermind behind the creation of the Q400 model, and lives near Paris. Dimtri's work has been well known throughout the FS community with many of the models that he has developed over the years. His talent and skills have helped to put the Q400 project where it is today.
Presently residing in Novosibirsk, Siberia and is responsible for the Artwork that have been included with the Q400 package.
Originally he hails from the Caribbean (Antigua) where his aviation career started working for LIAT and then moved on to flying charter and cargo for a family business out of Anguilla. Is responsible for a good majority of the R&D. He is the Lead Alpha/Beta Tester, and handle a good majority of the Majestic PR. Apart from this he is an active Aircraft Dispatcher with a US Carrier operating Dash 8 aircraft out of the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Could you please explain the "production" line of the Q400? I hear this is the Pilot version, with more to come, can you expand on this? Was this always the plan?
The production line of the Q400 is intended to serve three groups of Simmers. This has always been the plan, as this was the profile which we followed with the Q300 as well.
The Pilot Edition which was released back in April was developed for the Simmer who wants the fidelity of a fully functional aircraft minus the system failures and quirks that the aircraft has associated with its daily operation. There are however some features that will be exhibited if the aircraft is not operated with in its designated manner.
The Pro Edition delves deeper into the actual systems of the, aircraft allowing for failure functionality of all systems. Along with this we will be bringing online the Heads-Up-Guidance system, and shared cockpit functionality is also planned for this released. There are several innovations that will be implemented with the aircraft as we progress, but we will not go into specific detail until closer to the release of the Pro Edition.
The Training Edition takes the Q400 to another level in terms of expandability wherein one will be able to use multiple computers to run independent systems for the captain, first officer. This platform is more geared to the cockpit builders and or the professional aviation market. Airlines will be able to use the 400 platform for procedural training, real-time reference training which is great as a classroom aid. There a lot more uses that can and will be applied to the Training Edition which again I will not go to lengths to explain.
The “Shared Cockpit” functionality is currently being worked on and at his time looks rather promising. This will become available for the PRO and TRAINING Editions of the Q400. An SDK will also become available as many are eagerly anticipating FS2Crew to create and add-on module for the Q400.
The Majestic Software website gives a detailed explanation of what is be expected with each version.
How long has it taken Majestic to go from "idea" to "release" of the Q400?
The Q400 took 4 years to go from “idea” to “release”
What resources did you have at your disposal for the Q400? In regards to actual performance, documentation, real world pilots?
The Alpha stage of development for FSX which I know for many seemed like an eternity, as mentioned before was somewhat delayed as I searched for a modeler. However, resources have not been much of a challenge as the initial projects had a head start from our FNTP line of simulators.
What is the current status of the project? Solidify the current model/solve bugs or have you started work on the next version of the Q400?
At the moment we are working on a few of the bugs that are crucial to the operation/functionality of the aircraft. That being said, we are also continuing work on the PRO & TRAINING Editions and we are still projecting a few months till the PRO Edition becomes available.
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What else can we expect from Majestic, any other aircraft types? What are your ambitions?
Majestic's aim at the moment is to iron out the critical bugs which several users have been instrumental in identifying and bringing to our attention. Regarding aircraft types other than the Dash at this time - well this is a bit too soon for us to make mention of such plans. We do love the turbo prop platform and would like to continue creating high quality, complex aircraft. Given the size of our team, we are not in a position to work on multiple projects simultaneously.
Wow! Thanks guys, we wish you all the very best.
There you have it folks, more magic coming up from the Majestic team, they are hard at work, and if their passion and dedication is a gauge for their quality, we are in good hands.
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