The recent release of the BAe/Avro 146 (and its very good reception by the SIM community), put the name QualityWings back in circulation.
I cast my mind back a couple of years, to another product associated with this developer's name...the 757. The quality is quite good, products that appeal to our simmers, but to be honest, I knew very little else about QualityWings.
Thankfully, Corey Ford showed us that QW is the kind of developer willing to put aside some time in their extremely demanding schedule to talk to us, the sim community, and tell us about them.
Q - Corey, thanks for your time. "QualityWings...Complexity Simplified"...sounds terrific, can you tell us about yourself and the team? how did you all start at QualityWings, what is your background?
A - Thank YOU for taking the time to inquire about us. QualityWings Simulations was founded back in 2008 by Stefano Anedda. I was the 2nd member to join the group and helped build the rest of the team, which mainly consists of former members of the now defunct Flight Sim Freeware Development group Project OpenSky. As far as how QualityWings got our start, well Stefano had released a freeware version of the 757 to the public sometime in either early 2008 or late 2007. The 757 was only released with a blank white livery, so I started painting a few liveries for it (I'm crazy about the Boeing 757). I contacted Stefano to find out what his plans were for the 757, as the website for QualityWings (and previous names that QualityWings had been known as in the past such as CustomSim) indicated that a payware version would follow. It turns out he was kind of looking for a new team and a relationship was formed. I then reached out to some pretty talented and experienced freeware developers that I'd gotten to know over the years to find out if they'd be interested in joining us. First to join was Jacob Kubique who takes care of the flightdeck modeling (Both Virtual and 2-Dimensional). Emil Serafino joined us next as our Sounds developer. Brandon Henry and Nick Peterson would join in the Flight Dynamics Development department and Ernie Alston (the man who makes the aircraft systems work) would soon follow. The last member to join the team (and certainly not the least is Lars Roennig who is now our Lead Aircraft Modeler. I am one of 3 texture artists that we have here at QualityWings, with Tom Collins & Samy Fay as the others.
We were all flight simulator enthusiasts who got the itch to try and make our respective areas of the simulator experience look, feel, sound and act better. We were tweakers, who started to tweak more than we actually flew. Now here we are.
Q - What was the original idea for QualityWings? What is the structure of the company? How have you evolved over time?
A - When I joined on here, the 757 was the focus aircraft - and at the time there was already a few 757s on the market with a much anticipated version from a well-respected developer expected. So it was important that we did things that some of the other developers didn't do. We wanted to make quality products, with a lot of variety at an excellent value. There was one thing that I also wanted personally, and that was to uncomplicate the simulator experience for the people that wanted to "Jump in and go". But we also wanted to do that without losing those who strive for a little bit more, which is a battle :-). We wanted to Simplify the Complexity. "Complexity...Simplified " had a better ring to it though!
As far as company structure, I am the CEO of QualityWings. I am also part of the Development team as a texture Artist. The Development Team is the heart of QualityWings.
With regards to how we've evolved, I'd say very carefully. From a company standpoint, while we strive to remain true to our original ideas and values - we had to learn how a different range of flight simmers like to fly their simulators. That was tough for us. We had a vision, and we weren't sure if people truly understood it. I think they most do understand us now. From an individual standpoint as a developer and as a development team, nobody on the team knew ANYTHING about what it took to release a payware product. We all had experience releasing freeware stuff, but nothing of the magnitude of a complete payware aircraft. So our vision, knowledge levels, capabilities have evolved since 2008. We're better than we were and we hope to continue to get better.
Q - Your first aircraft, the Boeing 757, was very well received. It was not an aircraft that had been widely produced for Flight Sim. Why did you choose the 757? What was the development cycle?
A - Actually, it was an aircraft that had its fair share of attention in Flight Sim around the time that we were developing ours. We chose the 757 because it's just a great airplane. To be quite honest, we have always had the capability to develop a Fully Functional 757. However, as a new group with dealing with (2) 757s on the market in 2008 and the threat of a 3rd from a very well respected group - it was even more important to be a little bit different. This allowed for a slightly shorter development cycle, which ended up being approximately 20 months. Longer than we wanted but it was our first project together.
Q - In your view, what are the best simulated features you provide in the 757?
A - The exterior model is easily MY personal favorite feature of the 757. The variety of models and engine configurations is in my opinion the feature we're proud of. Every commercial representation of the 757 with the exception of the 757-200M has been modeled. One of the features that believe it or not, some users still haven't sunk their teeth into is the Retrofit Cockpit, where the Standard "T" stack instruments have been replaced by LCD displays. QWPAS (QualityWings Pre-recorded Announcement System) is a feature that many users love, as it allows for several automatic announcement such as Safety Demos and Arrival announcements from a "Virtual Flight Attendant". It is even customizable by Airline. But none of this means anything if the plane flies like a rock, and we're really proud to say that the Flight Dynamics of the 757 are an excellent representation of the aircrafts handling capabilities.
Q - Are there any further developments/service packs/add-ons planned for the 757?
A - When we can finally catch our breath from the Ultimate 146 and the Ultimate 787, we do have a 3rd Service Pack planned which cleans up quite a few areas and adds a few new things. There are some that hope that we'll add full functionality to the 757, but the product is almost 4 years old now. We are so much better than we were that we'd almost rather build a new one than to work with some of our dated sources. And who knows, maybe one day we will. Never say never...
Q - Your newest entry is another very popular jetliner that we have not seen "mass produced" in Flight Simulation...the BAe146 and Avro family. Again, why the 146? what made you choose it? What resources did you have available to you for the coding and programming?
A - Why the BAe146...Short answer, because there are already too many 737s :-) Seriously though, because the Flight Sim community deserved one. It is a very overlooked airplane in Flight Sim, and it deserved proper representation. We had some concerns that it might not be as popular in the United States since the aircraft served the majority of its missions in European Markets, but we are happy that this is not the case. The aircraft is obviously more popular in Europe - but it seems popular in the US as well. It is a beautiful and unique airplane which we believe that customers will love to fly.
As we've evolved due to capabilities and through listening to what customers wanted - we decided to take things a step further on the Ultimate 146. In order to do that, Lars basically had to "Go to Ground school" on the aircraft. Once he learned the aircraft, we then determined what was possible and what we were shooting for. Once that was done, we tapped into the BAe146 professionals that we had on our Advisor team from both the Technical and Flight Operations departments of airlines. They were able to confirm that the experience felt rich and engaging. And where we simplified things, we wanted to make sure it didn't feel oversimplified. It's a delicate balance that we strive to perfect.
Q - You have modeled 3 x Avro models and 3 x BAe146(soon to come in a service pack), what sets them apart in real life and what differences are modeled by Quality Wings?
A - The main differences are on the flightdeck. The Avro is a newer version of the BAe146 which sports an autopilot and an FMC that is very similar to what we know from modern Boeing jets. So it’s not radically different if you know how to operate, let’s say a 737. The BAe146 in return has a much more simple autopilot, which is not capable of e.g. LVL CHG or VNAV. Also there is no real autothrottle system. Only a so called Thrust Management System, which assists the pilot by keeping engines in sync or fine tuning the thrust to a preselected TGT or N1. It is a whole different experience of flying. The main panel is all analogue and the GNS-XLS FMC is a completely different animal. We promise it will feel like a completely different product.
Q - The Flight Dynamics for the 146 model, what can you tell us about it? How did you get the necessary data? how has it been tested? Why the statement "Realistic but Balanced Flight Model"??
A - We have been fortunate enough to have three real life Avro and former BAe146 pilots as advisors. This allowed us to not only base the Flight Dynamics on the available performance data but also mimic the actual feel of the plane as close as possible. Luckily Nick Peterson – our FDE Designer – is a commercial pilot himself and thus has a very good understanding of how to translate the pilot’s feedback into Flight Simulator. So why is the Flight Model realistic but balanced? Obviously we won’t be able to replicate the handling just exactly as it is in real life. It’s the nature of Flight Simulation. One example is engine thrust degradation over altitude, which is quite prominent in the real Avro. We are relatively close but not exactly where we would have liked to be with our product so in fact our plane is slightly too powerful in high altitudes. If you face issues like this you have to balance out the flight model to achieve the most realistic results in all given conditions. Even if this means that the numbers are slightly off, the alternative would be to match the numbers in a certain altitude but end up being awfully off in another one.
Q - The cockpit...what is simulated/not simulated (and why??). The Autopilot interface, how accurate is it?
To explain each and every simulated system in detail would probably go beyond the scope of this interview. A design target for this product was to be able to operate the plane using real world checklists and thus all essential systems are simulated for normal aircraft operation. In particular this means Fuel, Electrics, Hydraulics, Pneumatics, Air conditioning, Pressurization and Avionics are simulated. In some areas we simplified the simulation slightly. For example Pressurization and Air Conditioning is only simulated in automatic - and not in manual mode. This is simply due to the fact that it is not being used in manual mode for normal operation.
The Autopilot features everything you find in the real counterpart. That is ALT HOLD, V/S, LVL CHG and VNAV for the vertical navigation as well as ROLL, HDG, VOR and LNAV for the lateral navigation. And a full Autoland is no problem of course. For those interested in the details I can recommend checking out the User’s Manual. It can be downloaded for free from the download section on www.qwsim.com.
Q - The FMC...the heart of every automated simmer (LOL)...what level of complexity do you offer? Does it load default FSX flight plans? Navigraph support? What modes are supported? What is not modeled?
A - The FMS contains every feature necessary to conduct a realistic flight. Including ...
- Route modification / Direct To's / Custom waypoints
- Speed and Altitude restrictions
- SID's/Stars, and Airways
- ILS, and RNAV approaches
With regards to the loading of default flight plans, yes either by putting the .pln file in the QW folder, or by loading the plan into the FMS directly from the FSPlanner.
AIRAC cycle support is available for Navigraph subscribers as well as support for Aerosoft's Navdata Pro.
Regarding which modes of support, if you are referring to LNAV & VNAV - they are certainly supported.
And regarding what is NOT modeled:
- Secondary flight plans
- Missed approaches
- Offset waypoints
- Message recall
In other words, there is nothing missing that would prevent a realistic flight from being conducted.
Q - Sounds, default FSX or custom? If custom, how did you source these?
A - I don’t think you’ll ever find a QW Product that includes default FSX sounds! Sounds play a big role for us as they add a lot to the immersion in the cockpit. Apart of the engine sounds we included a huge amount of additional cockpit and environment sounds. Different sounds for all the different switches and handles, custom touchdown sound effects, packs sounds, equipment cooling fan sounds, even APU and GPU sounds that vary in volume depending on whether your flightdeck window is open or not. Probably the most important sound is the typical flap howl noise that occurs if the flaps are in transit between 0° and 18°. We have recorded all these sounds with the great help of our advisors who didn’t hesitate to record some of their flights for us to capture all the necessary sounds. Once the recordings make it to Emil - he creates the "Ear Candy" lol. We hope those familiar with the BAe146 series of aircraft can really appreciate our replication of the sounds.
Q - Failures? Are they simulated?
A - We only focus on normal operation and have no built in failure simulation.
Q - Manual, what is included in the package? is there a full Tutorial?
A - The manual explains all the simulated systems, flight profiles, design facts and typical ways of operating the product. For every system we created an easy to understand HOW TO USE section that will get you going rapidly. Of course there is a full tutorial flight available. All written in simple plain English and supported by many pictures to make it easy to follow for everyone. Just have a look at it yourself in the download section at www.qwsim.com.
Q - In your view, the best feature modeled in the 146?
A - That is a tough call! In my opinion the best ‘feature’ is that we managed to capture the spirit and ‘feel’ of the aircraft. I guess I’m not the only one who has some FS products that may have good systems and a great feature list. But although everything works as advertised it just doesn’t really grab you and is missing the extra ‘something’. We have received a lot of user feedback so far and the one thing that we heard over and over again is that this plane is just fun to fly. That in my opinion is the best feature modeled in the Ultimate 146 Collection. It is fun to fly.
Q - When can we expect the next SP and the BAe146 add-ons?
A - We have just released SP2, only five months after release. This was not because the product was not mature enough but we wanted to eliminate any open issues as soon as possible before we move on with the third release stage (which includes the BAe146 variants). Currently we’re working on the autopilot logic and some missing analogue gauges. The way things go at the moment we’re looking at a release in the first quarter of 2013. As soon as things are getting preview-worthy you will find out for sure!
Q - Now let's talk further into the future...the Boeing 787. What can we expect compared to your current stable of add-ons...more complexity, more immersion, more/less systems? What is being packaged?
We are so excited for what we have in store for the Ultimate 787. It is a wonderfully modern aircraft and we are sure that the immersion factor will be great. One of the goals of the Ultimate 146 was to allow the users to complete checklists as they would during a real-life prestart configuration of the flightdeck. This added to immersion. We missed on this with the 757. The 146 is our new baseline, so expect at the very least the same level of immersion.
I have to confess to you that I can't stand the term "more complexity" because it is so subjective. More complexity/functionality means different things to different simmers. There are some simmers who associate the ability to move a switch, regardless of its correct effect on the corresponding system as "a fully functional” switch or as being “more complex”. Others are looking for correct operation of the switch and the system. Even though our slogan has been "Complexity...Simplified", we've always strived to ensure that when we do allow the user to move a switch - there is correct functionality after moving it. This will not change for the 787, but as previously mentioned - the 146 is a baseline of what to expect.
Another thing to consider about the 787, and the questions about System depth and complexity - is that the 787 is it is such a modern airplane with so much automation - it actually fits right into our motto in several areas. There will be more attention to system operation. The overhead panel and the systems it interfaces with will be have a nice level of attention. We are also striving to ensure better functionality of the Autoflight and Thrust Management systems than what we achieved on a comparable aircraft such as the Ultimate 757.
Q - One of the million dollar questions...where is the data for this aircraft coming from?
A - Short answer: We are fortunate to have people on the project that are in close proximity with the aircraft and also have the ability to decipher information without the necessity of close proximity. We have all the information we need to build a great product.
Q - THE Million dollar question....WHEN???
A - I'll answer that when you get everyone to promise not to hold us to it :-)
Q - Your thoughts on the Flight Simulator Platforms? Will you continue to provide add-ons for FS9? What about P3D?
A - Well, we recently broke the hearts of quite a few people when we announced that the Ultimate 787 would only be for FSX. P3D support does not really extend past allowing our product to install into P3D - but we have yet to explore P3D much further than that. Regarding FS9, as we explained to our customers, we have data that supports what the majority of the payware flight simulator community has already said: the platform has declined and will continue to do so. Look, FSX is not a perfect simulator - and we all wish that Microsoft would have continued development of our wonderful hobby. Microsoft FLIGHT was not what we all wanted, and the fact that you didn't even ask about it tells me you probably agree lol. But, FSX is a very capable simulator and one that allows us to push the limits of our creative spirit. Developing for both platforms on an aircraft as sophisticated as the 787 hurts our development cycle. And as we grow as a group and in our personal lives, it is imperative that we use our time as efficiently as we can.
We hope people can understand and respect that, just as we respect if they don't.
One thing of note, is that we've never said that we are dropping complete support/development for FS9. We are just not prepared to focus our energy on a project the size of the 787 for FS9. Maybe a future product will find itself in FS9. The door is still open in that respect - albeit cracked.
Q - Finally, what can we expect from QualityWings in 2013? expansion? different support structure? more service packs?
A - We are dividing focus between completion of the Ultimate 146 and the Ultimate 787. We have ramped up work on the 787, and late 2013 should find us late in Development...or so that is the plan. We'd like to squeeze out a 3rd and likely final Service Pack for the Ultimate 757. We can't really predict future SP for the 146, but I can tell you that the core product has been allowed to mature so much with our current release structure - that it's unlikely a significant Service Pack will be necessary.
I don't see a change in our Support Structure as we are happy with the forums. The QualityWings community is awesome. Our users are extremely helpful, as is Flight1.
All in all - we are a very busy bunch. But it's still fun man...so that makes it easier. Stay tuned!
Corey, I shall certainly stay tuned....many thanks for your time, a pleasure to meet Quality Wings!