Today’s Flight Plan
We are joined by the founder and creator of X-Plane. X-Plane is an awesome multi-platform simulator that flies realistically.
In this discussion with Austin Meyer, we talk about how the idea for X-Plane started. Still running much like a startup today, X-Plane is almost everywhere; PCs, Mac, iOS, Android. Austin has even made an app for real flight called XAvion.
Get in the head of one of the industries smartest and most influential founders with this interview.
Huge thanks to Austin Meyer of X-Plane for joining us on AviatorCast and talking about his awesome simulator. He and his team are doing a fantastic job developing this simulator.
Major thanks to the amazing Angle of Attack Crew for all their hard work over the years. Our team works incredibly hard, and they’re very passionate about what they do.
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Grab your yoke sit down at a computer and start your engines. It’s X-Plane on AviatorCast episode 61!
Calling all aviators, pilots, flight sim enthusiasts and aviation lovers, you’ve landed at AviatorCast! Join us weekly in our efforts to become better masters of the air through interviews, refreshers, lessons, training topics, simulator set-up, hangar talk, news and more! Buckle up and prepare yourself for this week’s episode of AviatorCast! Preflight complete, fuel on board and flight plan filed. Let’s kick the tires and light the fires! Here’s your humble host, Chris Palmer!
Chris: Welcome, welcome, welcome aviators. You’ve landed at AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer. Give me a clear day, an open runway, a capable airplane and a free sky. What a dream to push 10 in an ever-changing open space. The dynamics, challenges and joy of flight is something that never gets old to me. I am the founder of Angle of Attack, a flight training company which is bringing you with this podcast today. AviatorCast is a podcast that I run weekly here on the worldwide web. And we bring you a very special guest, try to bring you one each and every week. But often it’s just a topic that you know I want to talk about so we’ll talk about a training topic or a simulation topic.
We largely talk about flight simulation and flight training and aviation in general. How to bring those worlds together and how to make a happier place with all of us holding hands. Maybe around a campfire with an airplane kind of right there, maybe some tents, singing ‘kumbaya’, beating our drums, I don’t know. Funny stuff. Anyway, you know, AviatorCast this is a place where we all come together and we share our passion for aviation. And just to give you an idea of how worldwide the listenership is for AviatorCast.
We have a review that comes to us from iTunes and this comes from MytleCon and he is from Romania. He says, “This is the best aviation show I have heard so far”, that’s the title of it. He gives us five stars, he says, “with the most of the simulators podcasts being canceled are not updated I turned my attention to AviatorCast, thinking that I would listen to one episode and that’s it, probably too much aviation and no simulator. Fortunately, I was way wrong. It’s impossible to like aviation and not like this podcast. The diversity of the hangar talk guests, the real world stories, the encouraging of the listener to take on real aviation will make you sit in the parking lot and be late to work because you want to listen to the end of that story.
Chris is on the wavelength of any aviation enthusiast. In one episode I was in the car and thinking please ask the guy about the banner tooling story please ask him and suddenly Chris interrupts the guest and tells him something like, now you have to tell the story we need to hear it. Great show, all the best from Romania”, says Zolie. So thanks Zolie, really appreciate it. You’re going to get an AviatorCast sent your way. Anyone who reviews the show and gets your review read on the air you will get a free AviatorCast T-shirt. I’m in the process right now of getting those designed and I’m spending my time getting it right.
I want these things to be awesome, I want you guys to want them, so give me a little bit more time there and I am going to start sending them out. But, you will get a T-shirt if you review the show. Just go to iTunes, leave a review, we would really appreciate it. It helps us get the news out AviatorCast and helps us keep moving forward because at the end of the day all we want to do is just share of our passion for aviation here at AviatorCast.
So we have a very special guest here for you guys today. We have Austin Meyer who is the founder, the creator of X-Plane. And X-Plane is in lots of different areas right now. It’s not only on the PC and the Mac but we see it on the devices of all kinds. Not only that but we’re seeing real world apps which we are going to talk a little bit about too here with Austin. So really really cool.
But before we get into that we have a bit of news coming from the flight sim community so I’m going to share that and then we get into hangar talk with Austin. So hang tight, we are almost there but first some very important news that I just felt I had to share, so here it goes.
Now, flight simulation industry news…
Chris: Alright, so now a bit of sad news coming out of the flight sim community and this is very important and something that I absolutely felt like I needed to share. This is news about AVSIM which is a large website that has freeware addons, they have a great user community there that communicates through their forum. This is a place where a lot of flight simmers or people interested in flight simulator go to communicate, to talk about the hobby and the passion for flight simulation.
So this guy, Tom Allensworth, he posted this message last week and mentioned this so I definitely wanted to share this with you guys and here’s what he says. So, Tom Allensworth the founder of AVSIM, he says, “this comes in two parts my health and the future of AVSIM to the community, our team of members, foreign owners etc. First of my health, to state it directly I am dying, I am dying from carcinoma that started as a tumor in my stomach cavity that enwraps my stomach feeder muscles or vessels, kidney, liver, the major blood vessels around the area which are so embedded and wrapped around the major blood vessels and nerves. There is no cure except that of delay.
The carcinoma has spread to most of the major organs. I’ve been given a pessimistic short 90 days of survival up to a lifetime number of 365 days.” And then he says, “second and most importantly the future of AVSIM”, I’m not sure if it’s most importantly because I think life is important but he says, “the staff and I with others in the community are looking at the alternatives that will keep AVSIM alive and prosper for years to come despite and in spite of my missing good looks and growing positive daily participation”.
And he says, “We will be expanding information on the future of AVSIM in the coming days.” So some sad news coming out of AVSIM, we wish Tom Allensworth the best in his final fight here with cancer. We know that he will hand off AVSIM in that great community to quality individuals that can carry it forward and continue that great website. So, we really appreciate all of his contributions and he has added so much to the community. So, just thought I’d let you guys know about that. Again, not the best news, but it is news. I generally like to come with the good news but that is something that just had to be shared in the community here.
Alright so on a lighter note we’re going to get to our hangar talk episode now with Austin Meyer of X-plane. This is awesome you can tell this guy is really on the ball and we just you know, we really enjoyed this episode with him so I hope you guys do too here. So here it goes.
Now, a special hangar talk segment…
Chris: Alright everybody we are very honored to have a very special guest with us today Austin Meyer the founder of X–plane. Thanks for joining us on AviatorCast Austin, how are you?
Austin: Doing great.
Chris: Cool. It was great to lock down an interview with you because we talk about X-plane on quite a bit on AviatorCast. We definitely believe in its powerful platform. I know that’s just kind of the start of a lot of different things that you are doing in aviation, I know that you are a pilot yourself. So the first question I always ask everybody is how did you fall in love with aviation itself?
Austin: Yes, so first of all I have to say, I said I don’t know exactly. I mean I just started flying the precursor to Microsoft flight Sim back on the old Apple II plus whenever that was 70s early 80s may be. I just liked flying that flight Sim and then I crashed a radio control airplane or two. But yes then I got my pilot’s license when I was like 16 the minimum age. So it’s really hard to see why I like it, I just kind of was drawn to it started to trying it out and it’s built up ever since. But it’s kind of hard to point to some exact moment I suddenly realized I liked flying.
Austin: It’s kind of an ongoing process I guess.
Chris: It really is, it’s kind of like this longer conversion process and I think I lot of us liked it because it’s a highly dynamic environment right?
Chris: There is a lot of different things about it so…
Chris: You’re obviously a pretty technical guy. When did you start to get into the technical side of things and want to pursue the, you know, aviation through a simulator?
Austin: Well so, I was hired to work at the company called the DuPont Aerospace which is as small aerospace company in Southern California. And they asked me to work on their flight simulator within the company. They had a flight simulator but it was running at too low a frame rate to really let this this be used for the things they wanted to use it for so they asked me to fix it. Now I had no programming experience and no flight simulator experience at all…
Austin: But they asked me to do it anyway just because they didn’t know who else to ask.
Austin: So, I pretty much just handed an impossible job that nobody in their right mind would ever have asked me to do. However not wanting to look like an idiot I cracked the books and started doing a little bit of research and just started thinking through the code and looking at the sim they had to start with. And I pretty quickly got the hang of it and within a couple weeks or so I had this thing running maybe 20 or 30 frames per second which is incredibly smooth four way back then…
Chris: Oh yeah.
Austin: Back when computers would chomp along at 10 frames per second if you’re lucky. And I got the simulator working to meet their needs very well, very rapidly and that was just my very first introduction to seeing how good a simulator can be, how useful it can be. So yeah, it’s kind of a trial by fire if you will, just trying to get dumped into the deep end of the pool sink or swim. And it was great, that was my introduction and when I got finished with my internship at DuPont Aerospace I decided to try my hand at writing my own simulator my own way. And that was the beginning of X-plane.
Chris: Great. And how does Laminar Research relate to that? Tell us what that small research is.
Austin: So Laminar Research is a South, Carolina LLC Corporation of which I am 90% owner…
Austin: And I initially wrote X-Plane by myself up through about old may be version 5 or 6 or something like that maybe version 7. And as the project started to get bigger, I started taking on subcontractors and the subcontractors what they would do, the way it would work is somebody would email me some sort of a thing that they did for X-Plane maybe it’s an addon aircraft or some sort of bit of code that they showed me how to write that I didn’t know how to write myself previously.
And they would send me these little snippets or bits and pieces of artwork or aircraft or codes that I saw exceeded my own abilities or supplemented my own abilities, I would say hey, this is awesome, can you supply me with this on a contract basis? And more and more people would make these incredible contributions and I just kind of little by little welcome into the community. And now we’ve got probably about, oh I don’t know, 6 or 7 subcontractors that all contribute their own little piece of the puzzle if you will to the X-plane world. And everybody works out of their home, nobody, we don’t have an office, we don’t have a headquarters, nobody commutes. The closest thing we ever had to meetings are just an endless endless endless series of phone calls and emails.
Austin: And then the occasional company meeting where we all get together in South Carolina, New York typically…
Austin: And talk about this next six months of the product basically.
Austin: So, it’s kind of a loose affiliation of people each of whom is in control of their own little bits of the simulator. For example, Ben Sutnick, is kind of unquestionably in control of the scenery of X-Plane…
Austin: Because he wrote the scenery engine. I obviously am in control of the flight module and the company. Randy Witt does tech support, he’s basically in charge of how we interact with customers. Chris Serio is doing the mobile version of the product for iPhone so he is unquestionably in charge of that so he’s doing that product. We have some artists in Italy and Spain which are making various airplanes for X-Plane and they are in charge of those aircrafts. So you know I call it subcontractors that’s a little bit in accurate. I mean they may be subcontractors from a tax standpoint or a technical standpoint, but what it really is is a little bunch of little fiefdoms. It’s much more like Game of Thrones…
Chris: Yes, nice.
Austin: Where each person has his own little kingdom and you know you can say that I am King Geoffrey, you know, whatever, but frankly everybody knows, I’m just the annoying little kid in one little corner of the kingdom and each person is running his own little bit of a kingdom from his own little locale.
Chris: That’s awesome.
Austin: I’m kind of a little King Geoffrey that issues orders and edicts that receive, well shall we say questionable, you know, authority by each individual. So it’s much more of a loose affiliation of people that all have their own areas of expertise and we all contribute that expertise into the master project. At then we kick it out once everything is put together, tested, running well, we kick it out as an alpha or a beta. Once we have it where we wanted then we call it good and you know release it and there we go, it is the newest version of X-Plane.
Austin: So, it’s an LLC owned by and run by me but then there is an affiliation of people that build their own little pieces to build the whole seeing to a bigger simulator than any one person could ever do.
Chris: Definitely, and that’s really great you know they kind of have their corner where they can just spend all their time and really focus on it and have their stamp on it. I think they probably really enjoy that right?
Austin: Oh, absolutely! When people come to work for my research it’s very very very rare that they leave. We don’t have anything like the revolving door. Ben Sutnick, Sersio Santigada, gosh it’s been well over 10 years…
Austin: That they’ve been with me. So, yeah, ditto that Randy Witt who is in Customer Support and some of the business management stuff as well. Yeah, it’s a small group of people who are very very serious about X-plane. When they come in they typically don’t leave.
Chris: Right on. So let’s back up a little bit because not all of our listeners you know, if they are pilots or people that are using other simulators have actually used X-Plane before. So, just as a basic definition, what is X-Plane?
Austin: X-Plane is flight simulator that I developed and published, basically it is an alternative to Microsoft flight simulator. When I first wrote it it was because I just saw how this flight simulator at DuPont Aerospace was done and how and how it was optimized for one aircraft in particular. And I said wait a minute why don’t we make more of a general case simulator so it can do more than just one airplane? So I initially just started writing it for myself to just show the general case of an aircraft. And I was taking an instrument currency check to keep my instrument skills and I had a heck of a time passing this test. I had to go up with the instructor like about four times to pass the test…
Austin: And so I said wait a minute that took too long so I need to have a simulator where can practice more on the ground.
Austin: So between having a simulator where could practice instrument procedures and estimate later that could estimate any aircraft that was pretty much how X-Plane got started and then ultimately moves in the marketplace. I was trying to find Microsoft flight simulator and keeping my instrument currency but it just didn’t have the flexibility in terms of cockpit layout and the aircraft definition that I wanted. So, I wrote X-Plane so I could build the cockpit and the aircraft that I wanted. So it’s really to meet my own needs for instrument training and flexibility so I could train in my aircraft not whatever aircraft Microsoft had in mind.
Chris: Right, exactly.
Austin: So its design is a very flexible simulator where you could have any aircraft in any cockpit to do instrument training. So that’s how it started and over the years of course as it’s gone out to each year to more and more customers the feature set and scenery you know have been widened and improved to the point where recently to the point where it was a pretty decent competitor to Microsoft and then of course Microsoft dropped off and then X-plane became in my mind at least, the replacement from Microsoft.
Austin: And now Microsoft is of course coming back kind of sort of in a way on steam…
Austin: Which of course is great in many ways but it’s my understanding that this steam version of Microsoft, they are not supposed the update it very much they can do bug fixes and that’s it. So, I’m not really sure exactly how much they are going to be able to improve their product under that contractual agreement that I understand they have, but maybe I’m wrong but that’s what I read anyway. So you know I’m not really sure quite exactly what the future of Microsoft right know. But X-Plane was designed initially for me and then ultimately released to the world as more of an alternative to Microsoft and of course we’re charging full speed ahead with development right now. We’ve got 64-bit support we’ve got Oculus Rift support working internally and we will be releasing that as soon as Oculus Rift is ready and released.
Chris: Gosh, that’s cool.
Austin: So, you know where charging ahead with development full speed.
Chris: That’s one thing I’ve always really liked about you guys is that you know you are, this isn’t a big corporation right, it’s not a bureaucracy…
Chris: You’re not trying to cut through a bunch of different layers of corporate people to get to just improving the simulator. You guys own it, you guys improve it, and you can constantly update it that way which is really really cool.
Austin: Right. If we, if anybody in any one of the little kingdoms you know says, oh I found a better way to do with that, they pretty much just do it. And so X-Plane evolves very rapidly. There is no such thing, there is no such thing, as some sort of a bean counter who says, oh well I don’t think we should allocate beans to this project because I will get more beans if I do advertising instead. You know that just does not even exist in our world. All we do is make the simulator, put the simulator out there and let people buy if they want. So, it’s a very much of our ragtag, band of people just doing the most advanced developments we can crank out through our computers with basically zero bureaucratic overheads.
Chris: Right on. And then you know that’s, if you’re always staying in kind of that startup mentality I think that’s a great space to come from and…
Austin: Yeah. We are in a startup mentality we don’t have to change.
Austin: You know it can be said oh you can’t stay a start up forever you have to mature as a company. Oh yeah really, do you, why?
Austin: You know some people might say, the company has to grow or it will die. What I’m not sure that’s a true statement, I’m not sure that’s so true statement at all. I mean I heard that Apple Computer is going to build an electric car or a car maybe not an electric car but a car. Why? Why did they have to do that? I mean I see companies or you know Oculus Rift selling out to Facebook you know. Why? You don’t have to do something to just make your bottom line bigger every year. If you’ve got something that you’re good at and the income meets the payroll then you don’t need to expand. Why do it? Do a good job at what you’re good at.
Austin: So, that’s what we’re doing and here startup mentality pretty much hits the nail right on the head and we got it and I have no interest at all in changing that. Because there is simply no need to.
Chris: Yeah. You know you’re having a good time, you are creating your software, you know, you own your own airplane. What kind of airplane do you own?
Austin: Exactly. So right, I temporarily, I temporarily have two airplanes.
Austin: I’ve been flying a Columbia 400…
Austin: Which is a wonderful little single engine propeller, lower range, you know flat six, twin turbo, twin intercooled, you know…
Chris: Very nice airplane.
Austin: Composite airplane oh wonderful, man I love, love that airplane. It goes hundred and 190 knots on 15 ½ gallons an hour.
Chris: That’s awesome.
Austin: When you are going 190 knots on 15 ½ gallons an hour, that is, I mean that’s almost witchcraft.
Chris: Yeah, that’s pretty efficient.
Austin: You’re getting 20 miles per gallon or something like that and you’re doing that over 200 mph. Show me a car that will give you like 15 or 20 miles per gallon at 200 mph, I mean it’s almost witchcraft. It’s so comfortable and the autopilot interface is so good, the whole interface of the aircraft is so good. Just the other day the day before yesterday, I started doing touch and goes in that airplane just listening to XM radio in an uncontrolled field doing touch and goes, sifting an average of probably all I don’t know 10 or 11 gallons an hour not much gas at all. It’s just so easy to fly…
Chris: What a dream.
Austin: Yeah it’s an absolute dream. However, it’s not pressurized and the only way to go far in that airplane is the climb up even 17,000 feet are so…
Chris: Yeah, yeah.
Austin: At least. This sweet spot of 17,000. If you find that airplane down at 8000 feet then the turbo chargers are just getting in the way.
Austin: Right. Because you don’t need denser air the turbochargers are just wasting fuel and in the way doing 160 knots instead of 190 knots. You do it on the same fuel flow and I just can’t stand to leave that efficiency you know off the table. So, if you’re going to go anywhere in that airplane you are going to go 18,000 feet, at that point you’re a non-pressurized airplane at 18,000 feet, wearing obviously an oxygen cannula. Well here is the problem, that oxygen cannula could fail any number of ways, right.
The little hose could come out of the little port that it’s plugged into, it’s back behind you, you might not know it. That oxygen goes through an oxygen conserver which is that it’s a regulator that gives you a little burst of oxygen whenever you breathe. It’s powered by three AA batteries…
Chris: Yeah, yeah.
Austin:It’s not plugged into ship’s power and what if the oxygen has been serviced with air rather than oxygen and this is happened before in aviation. Someone says I need my oxygen system serviced and they go okay and puts compressed air in his oxygen system, it’s not even pure oxygen. So it’s absolutely useless. The guy, he woke up in the front half of his airplane in a tree.
Austin: And obviously that required more luck than you can imagine.
Chris: Yeah, no kidding.
Austin: So, I rule that I try to follow when I fly is I always try to have at least two firewalls between me and a fatality. Right? And this isn’t just aviation, this is life in general. I never want to have only one firewall between myself and the fatality, I prefer to have two firewalls between us and the fatality. So flying the Columbia 400 at 18,000 feet wearing that oxygen system, if those AA batteries go dead and one hose comes loose right or that oxygen system wasn’t filled up quite right you can be looking at one failure leading to a fatal accident. Because one of the first symptoms of hypoxia is typically you don’t care about anything you, you get very laissez-faire you’re like oh whatever. Well, that’s kind of a dangerous symptom to have for an impending fatal accident.
Austin: So, as I travel places the Columbia 400 is wonderful and airplane as it is doesn’t quite offer me the two firewalls between myself and a fatal accident if used for a really long range travel. In other words you’ve got to have a pressurized airplane and the pressurized airplane of course has to have an emergency backup oxygen system. And at that point, you’ve got your pressurization, if the pressurization fails, well first of all you’re going to know that. Right, when your ears pop you’re going to know when your ears pop…
Austin: You’re going to know when the pressurization happens and with an oxygen mask right under
your hand, you put on your oxygen and you’re still going to be able to fly and you know it’s an emergency. You’re not going to have this insidious thing happening where you just don’t care about anything.
Chris: Right, right.
Austin: If you’re in an airplane and the pressure rises in flight I think you’re going to care, and at 25,000 feet you have about one minute of useful consciousness after an oxygen failure, you know or depressurization scenario. There’s plenty of time to get on the mask and descend, you start the descent of the airplane wearing an oxygen mask. So what I am flying now is called a Lancair Evolution. That is a home built airplane and I’m selling my Columbia 400 which I hate to do because it’s such a wonderful plane.
Austin: But, I’m selling my Columbia 400 now and I’m just starting to operate the Lancair Evolution and the Lancair Evolution has a Pratt & Whitney PT6 for an engine.
Austin: The one on mine is 850 hp and the crime rates in that airplane will sustain more than 5000 ft./m of flying…
Chris: Oh gosh. That’s scary.
Austin: That’s traffic pattern in 12 seconds, you know at 5000 plus ft./m you’re up to your class Alpha your airspace within three or four minutes where you have to be talking to controllers or you can’t enter. So if you take off with out of flight plan, all lined up and ready to go you know you are about three minutes from how all that worked out. So it’s really fast on 32 gallons an hour it runs 275 knots.
Austin: And if you push the black knob forward a little more you go to 40 gallons an hour and you’re coming up over 300 kn.
Austin: And if you push a little farther you’re coming up into the low 40 gallons an hour and you start to walk up into the 320 kn speed range.
Austin: So, it’s just wickedly fast and you know insane climb rate but you pay for it with fuel and while in the Columbia you could do touch and goes all day long at 10 gallons an hour listening to the XM radio, you know are listening to the XM radio you kind of race across the countryside. The Evolution does not understand that that’s all.
Austin: I mean with the evolution from the moment you hit that starter a button and you know you hear that turbine go, (sound) and then you start up and then you see that fuel flow going to 25 gallons an hour idle, idle is at 25 gallons an hour. I mean imagine an airplane that idles at 25 gallons an hour.
Chris: That’s pretty crazy.
Austin: As soon as that engine is started there is no concept of the word relax. You know, it’s just not in the vocabulary because every single second is allocated the same. How do I get the most benefit out of the airplane given the huge fuel cost I’m paying every moment to keep it running? And to add to that the fact that it’s got retractable landing gear. So I was wondering is it that you’re going to extend is it that you’re going to retract and when you understand the hydraulic, you know the system and the landing gear system as I do you know because I built it, it’s a home built, you’re always aware of, what if an actuator doesn’t actuate?
What if I don’t doesn’t lock? What if a pressure sensor isn’t working? What if the hydraulic pump fails? At least if you’re like me, you’re always afraid, what if the gear doesn’t retract? What if it doesn’t extend? Or worst yet what if it doesn’t do those things but I don’t notice and I just assumed that it did?
Chris: Right, right.
Austin: Ditto that, the flaps, ditto that the pressurization system, ditto that the outflow valve and the integrity of the hole itself and the bleed air valve to pull the air out of the engine. It’s an experimental airplane and so none of these things are certified. And there’s always a concern that it might go wrong and everything’s happening so blood he fast so that you are basically always on pins and needles watching for every little thing. So, I’ll give you an example, the other day I go blasting off you know, racing out of the traffic pattern, don’t give it another thought and then I get a call from the tower saying your gear is down.
Austin: Like what? But I raised the lever. And then I noticed that I’d raised the lever but the gear was still down. Why? And so I’m sitting there trying to you know to figure out what was going on and sure enough the maintenance guys when they were tweaking a few things on the ground had pulled the landing gear circuit breakers…
Chris: Okay, yeah.
Austin: But, they never told me and so I’m sitting here climbing 5000 feet a minute getting instructions from the tower saying something wasn’t working that I thought was. I’m trying to debug the problem keep the airplane right side up and figure out who’s been doing what the circuit breakers all at the same time. It’s not like you know I relaxed flight there is no concept of a relaxed site on this airplane.
Austin: So, it gives you the speed but you really have to work for it with understanding your systems. Another case just the other day I was taking off and the fuel gauge system in this airplane, all these Garmin fuel gauges system do this. This is not the evolution this will happen to Columbia and any other airplane with this type of field capacity or fuel tank sensor. If the fuel sloshes around when you’re at a certain level the Garmin starts to panic apparently not understanding why the fuel will capacity values are changing…
Austin: And all this red X the fuel gauge. It will give, very temporarily a very inaccurate indication. So I was taking off the other day it was a lot bumpier than I expected to be so I’m kind of working just the keep the airplane right side up and at the same time I’m getting a fuel tank that indicating zero even though I thought I’d taken off with plenty of fuel. And I’m wondering wait a minute why is this indicating zero? Is this a gauge indicator or do we have a fuel leak? Did somebody leave off a fuel cap?
I’m looking out of the window and I’m seeing a fuel cap and I’m trying to reconcile what I’m seeing out there on the wing which I’m seeing with on the gauge which is an empty tank and a red X indicating some sort of off at tank in my function from the fuel gauge and everything is happening so darn fast. And you don’t really get a whole lot of time to you know work out the details and it doesn’t help when you have 850 hp on an airplane that the weighs as much as about a Cessna 182 that on any time you so much as touch the throttle you need to respond and pitch heading and roll, you need to respond to flight control it puts on every access every time you touch that throttle.
Chris: Yeah, a lot of power.
Austin: Because the Prop wash and P-factor and Torque are all just huge and if that’s all the axes right. If you advance the power you need to counter that Torque that they are on, you need to counteract the slip screen with rudder, you know the spiraling slipstream or P factor with rudder, and of course this speed changes so fast now you got to respond to that in pitch as well.
Austin: So, every touch to that throttle, results in flight control changes on all three axes. And it radically infects the wind and the sound and the feel of the plane as well and the noise you know. So, it’s a handful but if you want to get somewhere quickly it will do it.
Chris: Yeah, it’s kind of like a modern-day warbird, you know you got so much power for a small airplane. That’s pretty amazing.
Austin: Yeah, it’s all carbon fibers so it weighs ways next to nothing…
Austin: So, it’s all about the power, power and a light plane. But if you want to travel around, it’s not too bad a way to go because you have 300 kn at 27,000 feet on 40 gallons an hour. Or you can back dropped to 32 gallons an hour and so get 275 kn which is a nice head of steam you’re still going 300 miles an hour plus. And I’m going to be using it increasingly to you know run around all over the country interviewing people that are being affected by patent trolls…
Chris: Oh yeah.
Austin: Which is another thing will get to later on in the interview if you want but one of the things I am going to start using that airplane for is to interview patent trolling victims all over the country.
Chris: Gotcha. Yeah, I don’t know if we’ll get to that but will certainly try it’s worth educating people on it because it’s…
Austin: Oh yeah.
Chris: It’s wild. Alright so let’s get back to, let’s get back to X-plane a little bit. You know, you just talked about the whole lot about obviously you’re a pilot yourself, you are highly involved in flying airplanes on a regular basis yet you have this software business that you guys are creating a simulator, so tell us a little bit about your, your feelings on pilots and you already alluded to this a little bit, but pilots using a simulator to augment their training or stay fresh and sharp. Tell us about that.
Austin: Okay, so first of all there is no question, the simulator, flying simulator is not the same as flying an airplane. I mean I just talked about two cases in the airplane and you basically are never gonna see in a sim.
Austin: if the fuel gauges monks function in which you didn’t expect, it the landing gear is not retracting because somebody left the circuit breakers out, the weather is worse than you thought it would be, the tower control is telling you something that is at odds with something you thought you would hear. It’s all these unknowns, the radical dynamics and unknown nature of flying that it’s pretty darn difficult to really reproduce in the simulator. So, we’re not really going to have a simulator that’s just like flying an airplane.
Chris: Yeah, it’s can’t be the real thing.
Austin: It can’t be but, but, but, you look at something like say the national test pilot school in the Mojave Desert they use X-plane to train their test pilots.
Chris: Oh, wow! Great!
Austin: So, what they do is they are test pilots will say oh wow, let’s enter this aircraft into X-Plane, and let’s have this mission we’re going to fly, and let’s site in X-Plane. And learn about all the handling characteristics of this aircraft, at the fuel burn of zero and the risk of zero…
Chris: Now, tell us why that’s possible because with Microsoft flight simulator you can’t just put in an airplane…
Chris: But the engine behind X-Plane is different so tell people about that.
Austin: Very much so. Alright so with X-Plane what you do is you input they geometry of an aircraft like the wingspan, the root chord, the tip chord, the dihedral, the sweep, the control surface deflections, the horsepower, propeller radius and chorded pitch, the airfoils were used, control deflections, wing horizontal stabilizer, vertical stabilizer locations, landing gear locations, landing gear landing gear your spring and damping constants, on and on it goes moments of inertia, empty weights, gross weights.
You enter all this stuff into plane maker which is a program that comes with X-Plane and at no charge and you enter all the characteristics for your aircraft in the plane maker. Now most of the status is available from the pilots operating handbook, so you actually can enter it.
Austin: Now, you wind up taking a ruler to the little free view of your airplane in your pilots operating handbook. Now in converting inches to feet to you know, how many inches in the operating handbook is you know, free view is equal to how many feet off wing size?
Austin: And you can input your aircraft pretty darn realistically and for things that you probably don’t know like landing your spring and damping constant and stuff like that and moments of inertia well you can just leave those in the default. Because, plane maker comes up with a pretty decent default just to be close enough to what your plane has…
Austin: if you just leave the defaults alone, you’re never going to notice the difference when you fly the sim. So, when you enter your aircraft, when you save that file in plane maker is just like saving a Microsoft Word file and then you can print it off, then you load that file in X-Plane the flight simulator. And X-Plane then takes that geometry and then it interacts with the air using something called blade element theory.
And what blade element theory is It’s a mathematical way of thinking each little bit of a wing are a propeller or horizontal or vertical stabilizer and it’s interacting with the earth and finding out what’s kind of lift drag and moment would be produced by interacting the wing with the air. And certainly this is how the aircraft are designed and know how their performance is evaluated. What’s interesting about what X-Plane is if you want to see how much lift, and airplane puts out in a flight condition you might hire an engineer to do it and he might work for a couple of hours and say oh well at this speed where getting this much lift, and this much drag, and this much pitching moment.
He will probably be pretty darn close to right. Well explained does the same thing but it does it in about a 60th of a second one hundredth of a second. And since it does this over and over it sees how much the airplane is going to accelerate each frame and that acceleration is integrated over time to velocity and the facility is integrated over time to position. In other words you’re flying!
Austin: So, What X-Plane does is what you might hire an engineer to do who might play with a calculator for an hour the computer does you know in a tiny is that the fraction of a second and he keeps doing that every single frame with a simulator and as the results you have you have a simulator that flies like the real airplane. And you don’t tell X-Plane what the airplane does, you tell X-Plane what the airplane looks like…
Austin: And, what its mass properties are and how much horsepower it has and how much fuel it carries and then explain figures out how it will fly based on that.
Austin: Because of this X-Plane predicts how an airplane will fly. In other words you can actually learn something from it. You know it’s not garbage in garbage out like most other simulators and an interesting thing about this is whenever some new airplane is unannounced in aviation and they start publishing their little drawings of the airplane I can enter that aircraft into X-Plane and flight before the real air craft is flown…
Austin: And see how that airplane is going to fly and I can tell how widely optimistic the performance predictions are and before the first flight is made to actually expose the myth. And so for example with the VisionAire Vantage which is a single engine jet, they were advertising some certain speed and range that that jet would get and I put it in X-Plane and I was like oh no you’re not only are not, and sure enough when they actually flew the airplane that actual performance the airplane delivered had nothing to do with what their PR guys had spun in advance…
Austin: Their actual performance of the aircraft was exactly what explains that it would be and I saw the same thing with the Eclipse jet and I put countless other airplanes on there as well. So, X-Plane will predict what an airplane will do before it actually does it and that makes it useful in a couple of ways one in which you can try out new designs in X-Plane. But, the other is if you want to put your aircraft in X-Plane, all you have to do is enter all your pilots operating handbook geometry and then let the simulator simulate the airplane for you. You don’t have to enter cruise speeds and climb rates and all those stuff properly yourself. And nobody could ever do that anyway because as you must already know cruise speeds and especially climb rates varies so much from day to day…
Austin: You know, based on the temperature, the weights, the condition of the airplane you know, on and on it goes the airplane doesn’t deliver the same performance every day. There is way too many variables so I don’t really think you can and find out exactly what an airplane is going to do and then have the simulator simulate it and spit it right up back at you. Because what the simulator is going to spit right back to you is going to be so heavily influenced by the particular conditions on the day you did your test flight. So I’m much better way I believe is still important the physical geometry of the airplane and then apply the immutable undeniable laws of Physics…
Chris: Yeah, yeah.
Austin: To that geometry. And then you get the right flying result in the simulator, whether it’s hot, cold, high barometric pressure, low barometric pressure, high density altitude, low density altitude, poor flying, perfect flying technique, however you fly the airplane will do in the sim what it will do in the real airplane.
Chris: Right. Yeah and I think that definitely a major difference in philosophy between the Microsoft flight simulator you know the different versions that are out there and your version. Your version is one where it’s actually dynamically in a real environment interacting with actual laws of Physics, actual Mathematics. Whereas the other stuff is just pure code, we’re telling the computer how to fly basically.
Austin: Exactly. That’s it. That’s it.
Chris: So, well, we got a little off track there but a good off-track. It’s good we were able to kind of clear that up for people so that going back to the conversation of how a simulator, and let’s talk specifically X-Plane. Because you know, I think it has a lot of advantages in this space but how you use a simulator as an actual pilot to stay sharp or…
Austin: Oh, right.
Chris: Even get started.
Austin: Yeah so you entered the aircraft from your pilots operating handbook and then just you know try it take it up take it up and try it. I mean you can fly in similar approaches you know traffic patterns and touch and goes, takeoffs and landings you know cross-countries. You can fly everything in the seam that you can fly in the real air flight so yeah you keep your skills up kind of exactly you think you would. I know of some, that an airline pilot that when he makes his trips from New York to Paris he’s supposed a layover in Paris for like two days before he comes back to New York. So he flies from Paris back to New York in X-Plane in his hotel room until he is ready to make the trip in the real 767 the next day.
Chris: There’s a guy committed to his job.
Austin: So, see you can use X-Plane to anything from just staying current as far as aircraft handling for touch and goes to flying you know, IOS and instrument approaches which would be of course the most common use to practicing a cross-country from Paris to New York in a Boeing and anything in between.
Chris: Great. And I do want to point out on your website by the way, x-plane.com, and I’ll put it in the show notes for you listeners. You guys, right on the front page, you can go to, I want to become pilot or try the free demo just for a flight sim. And if you go to I want to become a pilot, you guys have a pretty good page there that’s kind of spells out the different things that you can do with it. So…
Chris: Some good marketing there I think that looks really good. So kind of branching off from actually you know going in your POH and getting in the information and putting it in the simulator, that isn’t what to do with every airplane. There is a large community behind X-Plane in addition to the planes that you’ve put into the simulator. So tell people about that a little bit.
Austin: Right, so you can make your own airplane, obviously in plane maker and you can save it. Not only that you can email it to your friends or share it or put it on our website. And there’s a website called X–plane.org, that is not my website. That’s a different company where they host all the different aircraft’s that people make with plane maker. So, in other words when you get explained it comes with I don’t know, maybe 30 different planes, something like 30 planes.
But you can also make your own and you can download aircraft that other people have made from X-plane.org and X–plane.org has thousands of planes. So there’s thousands of planes already ready to go. X-Plane comes with the first 20 or so right out of the box. So, of course you don’t need to go and enter your own aircraft if your own aircraft is either in X-plane either with the core product or as a download from X-Plane.org.
Chris: Yeah, I’m am looking there now just to write from the front page I’m looking at some amazing screenshots of an Atlanta scenery. So that’s not even an airplane but there you know…
Austin: You can get airports as well. Now we have something no that’s kind of interesting call the airport scenery gateway and if you Google export scenery gateway. And if you Google Export Scenery Gateway you will see it’s an app that you can get yourself called WED or World Editor. In this you can enter your own local airport or any other airport in the world and you can interact with hangars and control towers and FBOs and stuff like that we’ve already made for you.
Chris: Wow! Cool!
Austin: You just dragged to the right of the places on the ramp and in so doing you can make the airport like your local airport and historically people have complained about X-Plane saying that all the airports are empty. And that’s true they have been in the past but now with our world editor and the airport scenery gateway anybody can populate their own airport upload that airport to the airport scenery gateway and there you go there is a real 3-D airport for your local area. And over time that airport database builds up to every airport in the world and X-Plane will soon be realistic. And right know we have about 1400 airports…
Chris: That’s a lot of airports.
Austin: That have been updated by users with real 3-D scenery and the right taxiways and all that and that’s 1400 airports and that’s over the last couple of months.
Chris: That’s awesome!
Austin: So, it’s taking off and certainly over time X-Plane will become a very very populated with actual 3-D airports. Now we’ve had 3-D scenery with the roads and buildings cars driving on the roads, headlights, trees, forest on the mountains. We’ve had trains running up and down the railroad tracks, we’ve had that for some number of years and that’s in X-Plane 10.
Austin: So, X-Plane scenery has been 3-D for quite a while and now now we’re making the airports 3-D as well and the airport project is not, not generic airports, it’s real airports.
Chris: Yeah, it’s great. I mean, you know, when you have that whole discussion there it’s really reminds me off just like this really great open source company that wants to open things up and allow people to come in and develop for it. And I think the more power you can get from the community to do those sort of things the more vibrant it becomes.
Austin: Yup, that’s it and with 1400 airports that’s probably more than we would have been able to do on our own…
Austin: We’ve only had this out for a few months so it’s going to be even more in the near future.
Chris: Yeah, definitely. So, there was a recent announcements it just comes out as a little side conversation here that PMDG was going to be doing their first airplane for X-Plane.
Chris: Was that an exciting announcement for you?
Austin: Yeah, sure and I think the DC6, as I recall what it was, which has got to be a fascinating airplane to fly. An interesting thing I suspect about the real aircraft is you have to be so aware of what you’re doing with the engines…
Austin: As far as the mixture, the engine cooling, you know you don’t want to shock cool, you want to manage the cowl flaps and the mixture and the prop and the throttle and the landing gear and the flaps. I’m sure you have to…
Chris: Yeah, those older radios you know.
Austin: Yeah, exactly you have to really know what you are doing to manage those engines. And at least according to the press release from the PMDG, they wrote lots of system codes to meet the airplane behave exactly like the real one.
Austin: So, it’s going to be at fascinating airplane to fly and I’ve seen this screenshots, this 3-D cockpit there absolutely mind blowing. But read what I really love what I really love is there announcement included, they have a lot more control, controllable inputs.
Austin: The cockpits is one on the X-Plane version than they ever could in the Microsoft version.
Chris: Exactly, that’s not a surprise.
Austin: Because X-Plane is a lightweight, flexible and easy-to-use, customize and modify and there’s so many more inputs it can accept, that it allowed them to do a better job than they could with Microsoft flight sim. And that’s what I really love to see of course.
Austin: So, yeah I can’t wait to get my copy and try it and just see if I can really manage the airplane.
Chris: Yeah, that will be fun, you know. Obviously we’ll expected to be PMDG type quality and, and you know I’m excited, personally I’m really excited to see things move over, rather gain a lot more traction at this time with X-Plane. With getting some of these larger developers over there because I’m a believer in your core way of changing the engine or having a different engine. And so when I come across a pilot for example and they say, you know, do I want to, do I want a simulator for just playing a game or do I want a simulator for you know, actually practicing realistic maneuvers or instrument training. I generally push toward X-Plane when it comes to that you know, they just I saw realistically so well and by the way it actually works on an Apple computer.
Chris: I’ll raise my hand I believe in Apple…
Austin: Oh yeah.
Chris: So, kudos for all of that and for laying the foundation there because it’s, it’s something that I’ve been waiting a while for this traction have been it’s been happening in the past couple of years and you know that as well.
Austin: Oh yeah, it’s been happening. And just to clarify, of course explain is not Macintosh only, it’s Mac, Windows and Linux…
Chris: Of course, yeah, I mean, that’s the point.
Austin: All three platforms.
Chris: Yeah, and not only that and this is what we’re going to get into next, you guys have also moved into the mobile space without a lot of same technology…
Chris: So, kind of as a segue to that that’s actually start to talk about some of the mobile apps you have for X-Plane.
Austin: Sure. So we have X-Plane 10 for iPhone, or X-Plane 10 mobile. I, we’re working on the android port right now and so it will be able for android as well. Now the iPhone version has a different demographic of customer. Okay the iPhone user, I’ve read the reviews, I’ve spoken to the people, they are not 30-year-old 40-year-old, 50-year-old, 60-year-old, 70-year-old Pilots, they need to practice flying and there’s so many little kids that are absolutely not pilots. And that’s just not of theory that I’m proposing, it’s something that I know from experience from answering their emails and looking at their demo reviews…
Austin: X-Plane for iPhone could not be the same product as X-Plane for this stop but just on a phone. The demographic is not a 10-year-old kid that needs to be able to fly and actual ILS.
Austin: So, what we did for the iPhone version, that’s a little different from what we did from the desktop version. For the iPhone version where making it more of a mission oriented experience where the mission is to fly through the Grand Canyon in a F22 without getting shot down by a surface to air missile.
Austin: The mission is to drop off bomb from at A10 to its target somewhere out there. The mission is still fly I really short cross-country or some takeoffs and landings and touch and goes and have your score value point. So, it’s game to life in that you have missions you’re supposed to do but the flight module when an airplane actually handles some maneuvers came right out of the desktop version. The airplane flies realistically. So, it’s kind of an interesting hybrid between the flight simulator and the game in that we have game-like missions but in a real honest-to-goodness flight model in the way the airplanes handle.
Austin: It’s kind of in another region between the game and the simulator you might say.
Chris: Yeah, I like that though because you are this demographic, you know your demographic you know, it’s the kids that are taking their parent’s cell phone right and using it to play games on during church are whatever.
Chris: And you know even though it isn’t technically at full on simulator so you can simulate with whatever you want in the sense that we know you can’t choose A airport to B airport it puts that child’s or kids imagination to flight and you know, that could hook them to aviation for later on so I think that’s a great…
Chris: Approach to it.
Austin: And because the flight model comes right out of the desktop version, once they can fly the aircraft on the phone when they go up for their first flight lesson they are going to have a huge head start and they are going to be basically soloing real real quickly…
Chris: Yeah, absolutely.
Austin: Because they already understand how the airplane handles.
Chris: And you get, I find that with simulators, if you can get the child to envision the aircraft in 3-D space from an outside perspective even if they are sitting in the cockpit then they’re going to be, they are going to have a leg up and they are going to understand what their control inputs are doing and all of that so…
Austin: Oh yeah.
Chris: It definitely helps.
Austin: Yep, yep.
Chris: So, let’s talk about your move over to actual aviation as well. You know one of the most fascinating apps that you have is Xavion, so…
Chris: This is kind of outside the X-Plane conversation but still depends on a lot of the X-Plane technology from what I understand.
Austin: Oh yeah.
Chris: So, tell us about Xavion.
Austin: Okay, so Xavion, it’s an app that I wrote and its initial idea was basically to answer my own it’s a question which is how user-friendly as suite of avionics can I make? I tried to Garmin 1000 airplanes and the Garmin 1000s, both in my Columbia 400 and my Evolution, are very very powerful very powerful. But not quite so user-friendly. There’s all these like pages…
Austin: And subpages and some about push the knobs…
Chris: Turn the knobs, yep.
Austin: Sometimes you rotate it, you rotate the big knob are the small one…
Chris: Yep, yep.
Austin: Then there’s an enter key but when do you press the enter key and when do you press the knob, you know. There is all of this just nonsensical stuff it makes no sense at all you just have to kind of memorize. And that really takes away from the user-friendliness, the flight and to some degree possibly the joy and the safety of the flight if you can’t use avionics easily. And I just got tired of looking at all these avionics packages in the world, all these synthetic vision systems and saying, it’s not as user-friendly as it could be…
Austin: So, I decided to do something about it…
Austin: I said on iPad I’m going to write the ultimate avionics system the ultimate synthetic vision and real user-friendly beautiful, crisp, clean, short display user-friendly easiest to use. And at first it was only powered by X-Plane. You’d plug it into X-Plane and you could drive it and then I said wait a minute, I can make the accelerometers and gyros and GPS on this iPad, I can have it working the real airplane.
And then I got it working in the real airplane and I said well wait a minute, I can hook this up to an ADS-B receiver which is our weather receiver I can have the ADS-B receiver broadcast all the weather to this app. This app can see all the what the weather is as well and then I said wait a minute, Seattle Avionics for a monthly subscription fee, they all four digits of charts and approach plates, I can have it showed that stuff as well and so I did. What I said over the phone, I could have this app run at a little flight simulator internally imagining up power off glide…
Chris: And this is the part that I like.
Austin: At every airport. Yeah, this is the incredible part what it does is as it’s flying every 10th of a second, in other words 10 times per second, Xavion imagines a power off glide to some airport and some runway and some runway within gliding range of the airplane. But if there aren’t any in gliding range of the airplane, well then it will pick one of the closest ones it can bloody well find.
Austin: It might make circles to the left, it might makes it close to the right, it might make less traffic it might make great traffic, it might bring you on an extended downwind, then turned find out are maybe it will bring in a super short term find out. It tries all these different combinations of approaches to all of these different runways, all these different airports and it evaluates the margin for safety of each of those approaches.
Saying okay, if you lost the power, your engine your engine power in your airplane right here right now, and you had to glide, what would be the margin for safety be for an approach to this runway endpoint at this airport making this traffic pattern directions circling down and in this direction? And the margin for safety includes how much margin you have to get to the airport right?
Austin: If you don’t have enough energy or attitude to make it to the airport or you don’t have any margin, cites how much margin you have to make it to the airport? But it’s not just that, how much margin do you have on the runway right?
Austin: In other words if you, if you’re in a Lancair 4, coming into at 2000 foot strip, there is not much margin if any…
Chris: You’ve got to put it done right at the beginning.
Austin: It’s got to be right at the beginning. And how much margin on runway width? You might ask what does runway width margin mean? We all like a wider runway but how do you turn that into a margin for error question sign well Xavion looks at the crosswind component. It says then based on the crosswind currently at this runway which it knows from the weather that got from the cell towers Wi-Fi or ADS-B, it tries to go with her all three of those ways, what kind of runway with do we need given that you’re going to be slow possibly to respond to crosswind?
The stronger the crosswind the wider the runway it advocates. So it looks at the margins of error for making it to the runway, how long the runway is? How wide the runway is? Considering its orientation to the wind and how strong the wind is and whichever of the many many many many approach it runs high at the highest margin for error that’s the best approach…
Austin: that’s the one it presents to you so you see a little path running from your airplane down to that runway and in the 3-D hoops or the 3-D display, the synthetic vision display you’re going to see little hoops you fly through. Literally, just a little hoops highway and the sky, 3-D hoops you fly through.
Chris: That’s amazing.
Austin: And so as you are flying along you continuously have a series of 3-D hoops popping out of the nose of your airplane that represents the approach to an airport that could be made after an engine failure, that has the greatest margin of error considering runway location, orientation, length, width, and weather at the airport. And of course winds aloft which are obviously also considered, which also came in from the ADS-B, or the Internet or the cell phone towers since Xavion gobbles up all the weather from any source it can find. So it is so so so much better than just saying engine quit, going to the nearest airport…
Chris: Yeah, exactly.
Austin: It is, it is ridiculous, it’s guidance all the way down. And more times than I can cones I’ve gone up in the real, in my real Columbia 400 and the power back to idle, push the little panic button and just follow those hoops down to the nearest available airport right to a smooth touchdown at 70 kn just short of the center of the runway. It doesn’t go to the beginning of the runway, oh no, it goes still have the rule out distance short of the center of the runway because that’s the most touchtone point that gives you the most margin for error in your rollout.
It’s not about closeness, it’s not about you know, here is the rule of thumb there is no rules of thumb there is no rule of knowledge passed down to the generations, no it’s none of that. It’s no touchdown about 100 yards past the beginning of this threshold. No, none of that nonsense it doesn’t apply to your particular situation. It looks at your landing distance, your airplane, eat the runway you are going to, the weather you have, at that airport, that the moment and sets up the approach to maximize the margin for error in that situation. And that is the next level when you can really compute the optimum response to this situation rather than just going through the rules of thumb that we were always taught to fly.
So it’s a pretty radical departure from the training that we typically get. Oh, and another thing, it doesn’t come down at best glide speed typically, we were always taught the same thing, oh go to best glide speed. Really? Why? If you have the extra energy, the goal isn’t to glide, I think the goal is the land right?
Chris: Yeah, yeah.
Austin: When people say go to best glide speed because that conserves energy, well who says you want to conserve energy? We don’t want to conserve energy we want to have a plane in that we know that we can follow that has a maximum margin for error. And so what Xavion does is if you have the altitude and you don’t always, but if you do have the attitude it takes you down to the speed that is considerably faster than best glide in fact it takes you down to the speed as they highest margin for error between best glide and worst glide. We know what best glide is…
Chris: Right, right.
Austin: It is the speed at which the airplane glides best. Well the worst glide is like you push the nose down as far as to dare without going up to too high an airspeed which of course we also don’t want to do. And so Xavion takes you down to this speed that’s halfway in between best glide and worst glide. So, if things don’t go as planned if there is down drafts if you don’t fly the airplane very well, those headwinds you didn’t think you would have, birds had dented up the wing or whatever you will have a margin for error in your glide.
Austin: The goal is and something to go to best glide, the goal is to have a plan and be able to follow that plan even if things go off of the plan.
Chris: Yeah, yeah.
Austin: Even if the wind is different, if the aircraft condition the flying is different, if the airplane is damaged, it doesn’t glide as it’s supposed to then glide is the one that has the maximum margin of error built into it. And so you are most likely to survive the event even if the event didn’t go as exactly as planned.
Austin: That’s how you really make a plan. You see, you make a plan you can…
Chris: I like, I like the buffer that you have been there between the best glide it’s really not just the best glide, it’s actually landing in the midpoint of the runway.
Austin: With the speed that gives you some buffer and the amount of buffer is not arbitrary, it’s not like all 5 kn for every extra thousand feet or…
Chris: Right, right.
Austin: It’s arbitrary buffers it’s a speed that says look, if your best guide is 110 kn and your worst glide, you know the farthest you dare push on the nose before you over speed the airplane, say it’s hundred and 170 kn, then this speed we’re going to come down is right in between those hundred and 140 kn and the descent angle is exactly halfway between the decent of 110 kn and 170 kn. So coming don’t have to hundred and 140 kn at a steepness and a decent angle which is halfway between your best and your worst glide, a hell of a lot of stuff is going to have to go wrong for you to not be able to follow that plan.
Chris: And, because you got the ropes to fly through. So…
Austin: That’s right. And you can see exactly what you are doing so over and over and over again I come into airports in my Columbia 400 and I just touch down, nose high attitude 70 kn, pretty as you please, maybe 800 feet short of the center of the runway if I’ve by both the 1600 foot rollout, and you never know I lost power 10 minutes and 8000 feet…
Austin: In the past.
Chris: That’s crazy.
Austin: And there I am, just rolled into a little stop in the middle of the runway is pretty as you please.
Chris: So, does it account for terrain too?
Austin: Oh, absolutely…
Austin: It knows the terrain and he knows the obstacles…
Austin: And it would never present you any approach that interferes with either of those things
Austin So, as it’s building all these different approaches if any approach ever intersects our comes close to intersecting, either an obstacle or terrain that approach is given a zero score and discarded you know a fail…
Austin: Before it ever has a chance of being presented to you.
Austin: So, you would never see an approach that intersects with obstacles or terrain or comes close still doing it so.
Chris: Makes sense. I’m not surprise you that in I just had to ask.
Austin: Right, yeah.
Chris: Alright, so we’re coming up against our time here, kind of you know this is a great segway. We move through some awesome topics here especially kind of getting the crown jewel there with Xavion. I think that’s really incredible by the way and I hope that our listeners are excited about that and go check it out. What do you think the future is off simulation and how is that going to combine with the future of aviation?
Austin: Right. So, there’s so many different ways to answer that question obviously. First of all, the depressing the depressing part of the answer out of the way okay and here it is. As simulation becomes better and better there is less need to fly the real airplane. And its telepresence becomes better and better and when we can put on Oculus Rift and pretend to be on vacation or pretend to be at a family reunion or pretend to be at a wedding without actually being there, there is less and less need for travel.
And so the bad news is the better simulation gets and the better telepresence gets, the less need we’re going to have to fly the real airplane. And that’s a terrible terrible terrible thing in many ways but it’s also the way it’s going to be and it’s also much more environmentally responsible to only pretend to be somewhere than actually travel there.
Austin: So, there’s advantages to it and maybe someday we will have a future where we have clean fuel to power you know airplanes and user-friendly aircraft interfaces so anybody can fly the airplane more safely without environmental damage. And that would be a wonderful wonderful wonderful world.
Austin: We aren’t even close to being there yet.
Chris: No, not even close.
Austin: So, that but let’s talk may be more about the medium-term future. For a medium-term future, as the Oculus Rift and things like that become more prevalent and start to move into the marketplace successfully the immersion of the simulators will increase. So I’ve already flown X-Plane with Oculus Rift, and no you cannot bite yet because Oculus Rift is still under development. But I’ve flown X-Plane with Oculus Rift and as I was sitting there in a Cessna 172 in X-Plane wearing my rift, I literally reached my hand out to try and grab the charts off of the copilot seat and I wondered why my hand was just grasping for thin year…
Chris: Yeah, yeah.
Austin: As I was going to where I thought the charts were. It works oculus rift works. Now, the drawback I couldn’t see my hands in the simulation as I looked at all these buttons and knobs and switches in the cockpit. And I was just dying to reach out and touch them, to adjust the VOR radio or a radio frequency, flap or restaurant to a grand yoke, but I couldn’t do it I couldn’t see my hands are something there.
Austin: So, there’s something called the leap motion controller, which is something that fits on your desk and it can tell where your hands are apparently and like you know comes up with a 3-D image of your hands. Some sort of the, the leap controller panel evidently doesn’t work very well. I haven’t used it myself but I’ve heard it from someone in my company that has used it that it doesn’t worked very well at least not yet. Some say it once in the future though.
At some point were going to have a leap motion controller coupled with Oculus Rift or something like that even if it’s different brands. Where your hands are floating over a little radar field are whatever so this field can see where your hands are send that information to the Oculus Rift and you will see your hands as a 3-D you know modern. And here simulation and once we have that that step will be taken and actually being able to interact with the world, rather than just looking…
Austin: That’s going to be the step we still have to take for the Oculus Rift to be a useful product and not just as science experiment.
Austin: And we’re close to taking it, I’m sure were close to taking it. I just haven’t seen it actually being delivered to the market place yet but it’s going to be real soon, I’m sure.
Austin: Yeah, someone’s working on it right now I am sure we just don’t know about it yet.
Chris: Yep, yep.
Chris: Alright, well I really appreciated you taking the time to meet with us today you know a fascinating conversation. You know I can’t thank you enough for your contribution to the flight simulation community not only that but the aviation community. A real pleasure so thank you so much.
Austin: A real pleasure okay great thank you.
Chris: Alright, again I appreciate you being on the show and take care.
Austin: Alright, thanks man.
Chris: Yep, see you.
Join us next week for another exciting topic or interview with a great guest. Spread the AviatorCast message. Please review AviatorCast on iTunes or submit an audio question for the show at AviatorCast.com. All iTunes reviews and audio questions that are aired on the show will get an official AviatorCast t-shirt. You can write AviatorCast directly on AviatorCast.com where you can interact with the AviatorCast community or write AviatorCast at email@example.com. We’d love to hear from you. For more information on Angle of Attack simulation training videos for FSX, X-Plane and more, go to www.flyaoamedia.com. If you are looking for a professional aviation training video services and other media, inquire at www.angleofattackpro.com. Now, for the final release clearance, back to Chris Palmer.
Chris: Thanks a million to Austin Meyer for joining us on this episode of AviatorCast and also to the entire X-Plane crew that makes X-Plane something that we all enjoy and something that we can look to as a really awesome simulator that we can learn a lot from and that we can enjoy. You know, X-Plane is coming into its own and people are noticing it more and more as this great platform in which they can use as their primary flight simulator. And we’re even seeing that now with the addition of PMDG kind of to that pool. Lots of things happening with it in X-Plane.
I really like the premise behind of it being Physics driven rather than being you know, just code driven I really like what Austin has done with X-Plane and I really appreciate him taking the time out of his busy schedule to come on the show and spend some time with us today.
So, what can you do from here on out for AviatorCast? Well if you enjoyed the show, please consider leaving a review on iTunes this really does help us get the word out. It kind of jacks us up in the ranking in the aviation podcast so that we can get to more people. We spend a lot of time on this podcast making sure that we bring you quality guests and I would absolutely say that Austin Meyer was a quality guest.
These guests put their time into this we put our time into it if you can do us a big favor and put your time into this and just leave us a review or share it, do something we’d really appreciate that. If you do leave a review and I read it on the show am going to send you an awesome AV it’s a cast T-shirt.
So let’s wrap up here thanks to the crew at Angle of Attack. They do a lot behind the scenes to make this happen, these guys are doing customer support, they’re doing project management, they are doing finances I mean they’re doing so many things, there’s so many people to help me with you know that you and I can sit down each week and we can have a really fun time going over cool episodes like this and learning cool new things and getting reinvigorating in this passion for aviation.
So our crew is awesome and you guys are awesome and you the listeners, thank you so much for joining us on this episode of AviatorCast. Really you guys are super great continue with the passion go out there you know keep using your simulator realistically. If you are on the fence about going out and getting a real flight training do what you can but no go get an introductory flight just try it out. You know anything you can do to continue this passion I think it’s such a great place to spend your time so dynamic and I really encourage that.
If you need any help anytime if you have any questions or suggestions are anything feel free to reach out to me personally Chris Palmer firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to speak to you I’d love to get back to you directly so anything you need just let me know and we’ll talk about it. So join us next week on aviator cat I have a bit of a personal episode for you guys so it’s going to be me, with kind of a lesson for you guys and then after that we’re probably going to have another interview so I’ll see you guys on the next episode of AviatorCast.
Until then, throttle on!