AviatorCast Episode 83: Flight School from Dovetail Games w/ Stephen Hood


Today’s Flight Plan

Flight simulation plays a large part in flight training today. From the intial hours a pilot can log in a simulator, to staying sharp as an every day aviator, a simulator is a fantastic tool.

Different simulator options out there often leave the would-be simulator pilot confused. Which one to choose? How to set it up? How to learn now that I’m loaded up in an airplane?

For about as long as simulation has been around, future pilots and those interested in aviation are completely lost when they first load up a simulator. Sitting on the runway, engine already up and running, they are now expected to slam the throttle forward and enter this mysterious world of flight.

Truth is, things don’t really work that way.

That’s where Flight School comes in. Flight School, aptly named, is a new simulator from Dovetail Games. This new flight simulator takes the experience of going to your local airport, getting a flight instructor, and taking lessons. You build both knowledge and skills as you experience flight training in a simulated world.

On this episode, we get together with Stephen Hood, Creative Director at Dovetail Games. He walks us through the creative and thought process that went into building a compelling simulator to achieve such a task as this. Through this interview you’ll find that much care was taken with this community, with much thought and care being put into this new, experiential flight simulator.

This is a great interview with Stephen, but don’t take our word for it- listen in, get pumped for this new simulator, and get ready for flight lessons!

Useful Links

Dovetail Games
Flight School


Stephen Hood

Huge thanks to Stephen for joining us. It was an exciting conversation, and gets us all really pumped for the up and coming Flight School experience.


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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Old School cool with Flight School. This is AviatorCast episode 83!

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, as a real pilot I look back on the days of flight school with nostalgia. This unique time in my life was one of discovery, adventure, challenge and a certain amount of courage. Like many real pilots out there I accomplished the journey with a lot of work but it sure didn’t seem like a lot of work because of my passion for aviation. So welcome to this the 83rd episode of AviatorCast it is my pleasure to have you here. AviatorCast is brought to you by Angle of Attack of flight training media production studio which I own and which I founded about 10 years ago now.

We’re actually in a couple days here we are actually coming up on the 10th anniversary. I guess there should be more of a celebration than that. So for those of you that haven’t been to AviatorCast before, haven’t listened to show you are in for a treat. So let’s talk a little bit first about what you can expect here. First off you can tell that this is all about aviation passion. Of course the beginning of this show is a little cheesy, I get a little excited, I promise it will settle down a little bit from here. But this is a place where we come and share our aviation passion together.

We come up with expiring interviews to reach out to people and community maybe not just in the real flight community with pilots of all different walks of life. But also from people in the flight simulation industry that are working hard to push flight simulation forward. Because we are being believers in flight simulation here at AviatorCast. We not only believe it help get pilots and potential pilots into the pilot pool but it also really, really helps real pilots stay sharp especially during the winter months like we are going through right now. Although now we’re coming in the spring at least here in the northern hemisphere.

So this is also a place where we share insight into the community, into the flight training community, into the flight committee, staying sharp as pilots, getting into flight training itself. Maybe you have gotten out of aviation for a while and you are just wanting to reignite the flame we can help with that as well. And maybe you are just getting the courage to fly this is a place where you can learn more about flight and what it takes and how exciting it is and the great stuff about it. That’s in a nutshell what AviatorCast is about.

On today’s episode we have a very special guest his name is Stephen Hood, he is from Dovetail Games. For those of you that aren’t familiar Dovetail Games bought FSX Microsoft flight simulator from Microsoft and they are now developing for that platform. And we are not talking about FSX today we are talking about another very, very excited simulator that is coming soon called Flight School. It is a flight school experience in simulator form and I am so excited for what that means especially for the type of community that we have here at AviatorCast. So we are going to get into that interview but first off we always have a review that comes to us from iTunes or Stitcher or any other location where you leave a review for our show.

If you leave a refuel for our show remember again I will send you an AviatorCast fly or die T-shirt it’s awesome. It has an F4U Corsair. For those of you that don’t remember what the F4U Corsair is it’s a navy airplane that was used in World War II. It has a cool kind of curve at the beginning at the root of the wing, it has folding wings. Very cool airplane, very cool T-shirt, I will send you one no matter where you are if you get your review read on the show. So please go review the show and I will send you one.

This week’s review appropriately comes from someone in the UK and why appropriately? Dovetail Games is based in the UK so I picked this one out. This is Jammymat he gives us five stars, I love his title. He says, Part of the Open and Approachable Face of the Contemporary Aviation Community Binge Listen Worthy. Well I have been watching Walking Dead recently and if AviatorCast is binge worthy like that show is then we are doing something right. So thanks appreciate it Jammymatt so here’s his review.

“AviatorCast is part of the open and approachable face of the contemporary aviation community and such a great source of info that I often find myself taking notes as I listen. I was looking into ways to get fired back up about aviation after more than a decade away from my last solo flight as an air cabinet in the UK. I found AviatorCast when I saw Flight Chop’s Steve Thorne was a guest and subscribed immediately after listening to it.

Following that I heard the interview with Sandaero’s Mike Rushforth, signed up for a mentoring and I am now preparing to start my PPL Training later this year. I can’t get enough of it. Thank you for the content Chris and please keep it coming. PS I subscribed via pocketcast I don’t actually use iTunes so I came in here just to write this review”.

I really appreciate you leaving the review on iTunes. Again if you guys leave the review somewhere else that’s fine just point it out and I will be happy to oblige. So Jammymatt a T-shirt is coming your way. Email me, me@aviatorcast.com and I will send you a fly or die T-shirt. I really appreciate it it’s very cool to hear that after a decade you reignited the flame. And if all of you remember I talked that some people just reignite the flame here at AviatorCast and that’s completely acceptable. I’m super pumped that you are excited and getting some good mentoring from Sandaero and also you’re getting into your PPL.

That just makes all of what I do here at AviatorCast worth it so very, verycool. So again email me, I want to send you that shirt. So we are going to get into this interview with Stephen Hood, very cool stuff here I’m excited for this simulator guys. So I’m not going to delay any longer, let’s get into this conversation he’s a great guy and let’s have at it. So here is hanger talk with Stephen Hood from Dovetail Games and the new and upcoming simulator Flight School.

Now, a special hangar talk segment…

Chris: Alright everybody we are very honored to have a special guest with us today. We have Stephen Hood from Dovetail Games. How are you doing Stephen?

Stephen: I’m very well thank you. I love being called a special guest it’s not often that I get that.

Chris: Well you certainly are. It was difficult for you and I to find a time that worked between later in the evening in the UK and in the morning here in Alaska, that’s a pretty big divide. So we finally got together I’m really excited about our call today. So Stephen why don’t you tell everyone what it is you do at Dovetail Games?

Stephen: I am the Creative Director, just to get a little bit of explanation as to what that really means. I am the designer if you like the guy that you blame for the content of our projects, the makeup of a project, the way that it transmits to the users. I am supposedly the guy with the vision, the one that has an understanding of the subject matter. I have to try and translate that into the product that we all get to enjoy once were finished.

Chris: Perfect. So those that aren’t aware of Dovetail Games, maybe some of the real pilots out there that listen to this podcast, tell everyone who Dovetail Games is and why in recent memory they are relevant to the flight community.

Stephen: Dovetail Games have been around for many a year now. They are a company of over 100 employees, primarily based in a site in the South of England but we’ve got an office in Scotland as well, growing office. They have been enormously successful with our train simulator franchise I’ve been running for a number of years. They have real expertise in that space so they created a cool product and they sell a wide variety of add-on content for that train sim.

And it’s a real enthusiast product. We certainly started out in that space, it’s got a huge audience now. They have become more relevant to the aviation space since they signed a deal with Microsoft to publish the Steam edition of Microsoft flight simulator. That’s going incredibly well both parties are happy with that. We’ve been delivering add-on content for that flight sim as well and steam platform. And since we signed that we’ve been working on our own flight simulator in the background which is due to launch in the not-too-distant future.

Chris: Exactly and that’s why we are getting together today, we are talking about flight simulation and specifically that simulator you mentioned which is called Flight School. And talking about a lot of training topics here on AviatorCast and also keeping sharp as pilots and things like that. Getting more people in the community, this new idea of a simulator simply called Flight School got me really excited. So why don’t you give everyone just a very brief taste of Flight School, maybe this is more of a PR pitch if you will. The elevator pitch and just let us know what it is. Obviously we’re going to talk a lot about this during the show today but let us know what it is.

Stephen: Flight School is our attempt to reintroduce either lapsed players or entirely new users to the flight sim space. One of the things I think that’s been quite obvious for a while is people are aware in the background if they haven’t been in the flight Sim space for a while that these products exist. But sometimes they pull off. It can feel very scary at times to jump into our flight simulator and try to understand how you operate for some people it is a very alien world. I think it is in easy sell to you but if you can get beyond that, flight sim and aviation in general is such a fantastic experience.

You may have been absolutely enthralled by it and mostly myself in this world 18 months ago and I want to translate this. So I want people to get through the initial barriers and understand how the pilot aircraft, understand this world of aviation to a certain extent so they can get something from the experience. We can introduce new simmers into this space if you like and that’s what Flight School is really trying to do, is trying to break down the barriers. It’s a standalone product so you can purchase Flight School and be taught a couple of different license types, different training products if you will operated by different flight schools around the world map in different aircraft.

And it’s really trying to translate the experience you would have if you turned up at a flight school in the real world and said, I’m a wannabe student pilot. What do I need to do in order to operate these aircraft and get a license and become qualified if you like? So that’s the job that we’re trying to do at Flight School it’s really trying to break down these barriers and get people back into this.

Chris: You and I were discussing before we got on the air here about how when a lot of people download a simulator, say they download FSX Steam edition from Steam. They jump into the simulator, they kind of get lost it’s like yes I’m going to load up this jet, I’m going to push forward the throttle and I think I pulled back but really that’s not what happens. I never get off the ground and using my keyboard to fly that sort of thing. And really that was my experience too luckily I had enough of an aviation bug that I ended up pursuing more and more and more getting that knowledge sort of thing.

But like you said there are a lot of people that get lost in that timeframe and so it’s really great to hear that something like this. I even really like the idea it’s a standalone simulator. It has one purpose and that is experiencing flight training which is absolutely a fantastic thing to do. And of course outside of Flight School I would encourage everyone to go to a real flight school. So tell us a little bit more if you can what the experience of the simulator is like. I know you’re going to want to keep some of the fun information close to the vest prior to release. But tell us what you can tell us about what it is like to use the simulator, what the experience is like a little bit.

Stephen: The introductory piece in Flight School as you mentioned it’s all about flight training. That doesn’t mean it’s the only thing you can do, we’ve got free flight in there just like we had in the FSX. We have the entire world for you to explore. But instead of just enabling people to just jump into free flight which they can do if they so wish. There needs to be something that enables you to understand what you do in this world. Now if you turned up at a flight school, they don’t chuck you the virtual keys to an aircraft and say go and take it for a spin you don’t know where to start.

And I think unless you’ve got some kind of knowledge which you can pick up. These days by reading books, doing the PPL course, just doing the theory or researching a load of stuff on YouTube. There is a wealth of information out there now. But what better way to try and understand the core controls of an aircraft and the kind of things you need to do in order to operate as a successful pilot than through a simulator that channels that experience. So instead of us just trying to give you a list of stuff that you can do in a variety of aircraft, I don’t want you to start with a Microlight and a few lessons later you’re flying a jet between two international destinations. That is overwhelming and you just end up skimming the surface of really, really interesting subject matter that you wish to impress upon the wannabe pilot. So what we try to do with Flight School is carve out a space in aviation and that’s around GA. So you’ve got your general aviation stuff with the kind of aircraft that you would get to access if you turned up at a typical flight school. And that for me is really important so for the uninitiated sometimes people come to us and say all they want to do is find F-15 or a blackbird or whatever. Well who says that we won’t get to that at some stage?

Well actually flying at GA aircraft successfully and understanding the depth that’s involved in that kind of experience for me is really exciting. The difficulty that we are trying to overcome is how we deliver that to an audience that would be really interested in this. I’ve overlooked it in the past and there is so many other things out there that demand their attention that we have to do this in a professional capacity. And this is where I think Dovetail comes in and their experience comes in.

We want to deliver this in a way that feels realistic, it’s authentic it’s a simulator but it represents what happens to a want to be student pilot in the real world. So you turn up at your flight school, there is an instructor that you are allied with that teach you the basics of operating the aircraft. They take you up for these lessons, they walk you through this things and over time you start to learn these bits of information very quickly. You will be able to go to a dinner party and bore people with all your info with your knowledge of aviation.

You will feel very quickly like a pilot and it will start to make sense. Very, very daunting from the outside. But I think we can break that down and that’s what Flight School is trying to do. Saying this stuff is really, really cool, it’s really engaging and this is what it takes to be a pilot. And we will quickly get you up to speed and then you could for example go and enjoy free flight and suddenly that makes sense. That for me is important.

Chris: Perfect. So when you guys went in and approached this idea of showing up at a virtual flight school and as you said getting lined up with an instructor, how did you approach all of the options out there as far as curriculum and things? And you can even get into the creative process here a little bit if you like how you guys research these things because I think that’s would be interesting. How do you decide on this path that they will go on?

Stephen: For me I am very, very conscious of us in this day and age selling these things digitally and reaching an international audience. So the makeup of the development team is very international there is a core development team in the Dovetail Headquarters in the UK. But we work with a bunch of different teams around the world including some ex Asis team members that were involved in Microsoft flight simulator. And we use that international melting pot if you like to try and appreciate what it is like to turn up at a flight school in different parts of the world.

They all have different curriculum. You could say for example in the US you could become a sport pilot and you get a certificate. And in Europe you will go somewhere and you will get a LAPL or a light aircraft pilot license for example. And for me very early on when I was trying to understand the makeup of aviation across the world it’s so, so huge. Utterly confusing I think even to very experienced pilots where you’ll see people chatting on forums all over the world and they’ll say what do I need to do in order to be current in that part of the world to fly this type of aircraft?

And I have heard this, this and this. It’s very, very complex but I also find that very interesting. So earlier on I was trying to establish a framework for the kind of training that you could do around the world. It could be very easy to say we could only do your training in the US and everything is based around the US. But actually we’ve got this entire world we want you to go on adventures in. I want you to travel across the world and do all sorts of amazing things and over time I want you to try and deliver the concept of this being a living, accurate, breathing world if you will.

Where different territories have so many different rules and terminology and that has to start with the concepts of the flight school who is teaching the curriculum that is relevant in their part of the world. So my brain was taking over on this stuff as soon as I got through the door of Dovetail and gone to work on this flight sim. Internally it was awkward perhaps to begin with when we were saying let’s make something called Flight School that teaches people how to fly. Because if you try to sell that to some marketing people they will say that you know that sounds boring, it sounds like you’re doing homework, it sounds like studying.

Well actually this is really, really good fun. Now I would put myself through the hoop when it comes to studying for PPL for example in the UK. I was utterly hooked very early on taking a bunch of lessons, I’ve got all the books, I’ve done all the fairy, I need to sign myself up to the exams I’m not worried about failing those at the moment. And all these kinds of things it’s just so rich that yes you are trying to achieve something and you might retry a lot of these lessons. You don’t just succeed on your first landing and then you take off and you’re done. You want to improve the way that you can handle these different aircraft. That training is actually enjoyable and that shouldn’t be overlooked.

It is really enjoyable just trying to get your private pilot license in flight school. So why not have a product that is centered around that that enables us with a laser focus to deliver a great experience in that initial instance. That brings more people into the space that enables us to then grow the audience when we deliver the full flight experience if you like at a later point.

Chris: There are universal principles and I’m glad to hear you say a lot of that. Because there are universal principles about aviation that have nothing to do with a local governing body, the FAA, GAA, anyone where at the end of the day it’s just about a guy or girl or a woman whatever and airplane being connected with the airplane and learning to fly that thing. They may speak a different language, they may live in a hot or cold or different part of the world with a very diverse culture from another place. But what it always comes down to is, it comes down to and aviator in their airplane learning how to gain a relationship with that airplane.

It kind of reminds me, I think of Amelia Earhart when I think of this because back in the day she took an airplane and almost got all the way around the world. But aviation was just something that was amazing to everyone and every stop she was at. And even in the US at that time people still very much appreciated they weren’t complaining about small seats on airline or some things like that. It was a very cool thing still and you see how there is like this part of humanity that is so connected to aviation, everyone kind of gets it. That it is this big deal and we can travel very fast with an airplane.

And so I really you guys are connected into that idea of no matter where you are in the world, this is about getting in and flying the airplane and that sort of stuff. I’m really happy to hear that and that creative process had to be pretty dang fun to have to go through all that. And you mentioned about learning, it’s almost addictive to learn aviation material. Sometimes it’s boring if you’re getting into regulations but it is pretty dang fun, it’s just so diverse.

Stephen: I’ve got a huge book next to me and it’s Air Lord and I have to say some of this stuff they still teach you today that seems crazy to me. But it’s all about being current these things chop and change over the years but you got a basic understanding of what’s required and that’s what I tried to do at the very beginning. I never looked at this as we’re going to make flight game and we’re just going to pretend to teach people. You’ve got to understand the subject matter in order to appreciate which bits things you need to pull from this world in order to replicate the experience of training to be a pilot.

And that’s what we are trying to do at Flight School. I’m not expecting you to do the written exams and there will be a lot of very experienced simmers out there that could come into this and go, no I can narrow this landing, I can do this, I can do that and that’s fine. You can actually in Flight School come into this, as long as you go through the initial lesson hosted by a particular Flight School that introduces you to the aircraft and the Flight School you’re going to be expected to do that particular license type. You can do that and as long as you meet some other criteria for example solo hours and whatnot.

You could take the skills test if it’s UK or the check ride in US and gain your qualification early. So I’m not expecting everybody to follow exactly the same path as Flight School. There’s going to be some people with knowledge that can quickly prove their skills and there will be a whole lot more people I think that are coming into this for the first time that need some handholding just as they would if they started out as a student pilot in the real world. They have an instructor alongside them that teaches them how to operate the aircraft.

If you’ve been in aviation for a while and you’ve been simming for a while or you are a qualified pilot, I think sometimes it’s too easy to overlook the way you started. And this product is designed to bring people into what we, you and I know to be a fantastic product.

Chris: We talked about how in simulation a lot of people may get discouraged when they get into our flight sim. This is kind of open world for the first time without any kind of guidance. This actually happens quite a bit in real aviation training as well where the vast majority of students are going to drop out of flight training do so before their first solo. And so I almost see this as the same thing because generally from what I have seen and what it boils down to is that you are connected to a flight school that didn’t give them enough guidance, that’s wasn’t involved enough in their process to help them along the way.

And of course for some people it ends up boiling down the money but I think the other day the motivation to do that sort of thing, the money takes a backseat to someone that really gets connected with how to get this done. So it’s interesting to see those same challenges come over into this simulator and answering them in a similar way. Make this a really great experience like you said handholding which could be seen as a derogatory term. But it really is this gaining of a relationship, building up a relationship when someone first gets into learning to fly. It is not only so is essential with a training program like here on Flight School but it is also essential in the real world. So those principles certainly carry over.

Stephen: Indeed, I think one of the things that early on I think before we were just chatting before the interview began you were talking about people jumping into flight sim and just messing around in preflight and having no real concept of what they are doing. Now you wouldn’t do that in the real world, what of the things that we’ve noticed and we’ve played around with a bunch of technologies in flight sim is that it’s the on initiated jump onto our flight Sim they can sometimes treat it like a toy. And I don’t want that, I’m not looking to attract game players, video gamers or arcade players into this.

I’m not taking a slice out of the ecology markets and trying to bring them into flight sim. That’s at back so that I don’t need to have right now. Because I think there’s a wealth of people out there and enormous number of people that would love to get into, back into flight simulation if there was a product out there that revitalize their interest. And it’s not just the product it’s people like me talking about it and others appreciating the depths and the fun and enjoyment and the satisfaction they get from flight simming. If I want to bring people back into the hold I found it very surprising that it’s almost expected now that you say to somebody I’m a flight simmer. What are you doing? I guess your reading all these books all the time, you’re a geek. It’s like not at all.

You’re saying that because you can’t see over the fence. And I have to get people across there to understand there. You could say in the real world for example since I’ve become more involved in this world of aviation which has utterly hooked me, I didn’t appreciate properly how many airfields there are around where I live.

Chris: Isn’t it amazing?

Stephen: You don’t see…

Chris: You don’t know they’re there.

Stephen: You don’t see they’re there and as soon as you appreciate this you know about these airfields and you know this world exists around you and above you isn’t it fascinating? It’s so utterly amazing that we have to find a way to bring more people into this space. And this is what Dovetail games are trying to do. And I think it’s got a chance of being hugely successful with people get on board with what we’re trying to do. We can’t do everything overnight but we are starting flight school in the GA space seems like a sensible method, sensible approach to me. I’m just excited about what we’re going to do over the next few years let alone just with Flight School this is going to be amazing.

Chris: A lot of your points there are really good. You know I think to what I experienced a little bit in Angle of Attack and Angle of Attack is kind of the parent company of AviatorCast Stephen. And what we do and have done is video training for flight simulation. We do it from a real pilot’s perspective, professional training it’s not as immersive as actually having a simulator like you guys have so I’m really excited that you guys are creating kind of an all-inclusive experience. That’s great. So I created a course back in 2010 called Aviator 90 it was 100% free. It’s a 45-part video course on how to fly from a real pilot’s perspective.

I’m a real pilot myself and people just gobbled it up. I rarely pull back the curtains like this on my internal business workings but I’ll just share this. At that time my blog had something like 100 viewers a day or something like that it wasn’t too many. But it was growing it’s nice to see some viewers rather than anything. When I introduced the Aviator 90 I went from 100 viewers a day to 3,000 viewers a day it just exploded. And so I felt like I really latched on to issue in the community where there were a lot of people that although they were flight simmers they never really had the opportunity to get that training and really actually have fun and immersive way.

Also what I see quite a bit is a lot of guys coming in they told that they have 3,000 hours and the PNDG 737 or something along those lines. However come to find out pretty quickly they don’t even know how to land an airplane. They never really learned how the secret happens, out to flare, how to touchstone all those things. Then of course it is different in a jet than it is in a 152 but there is such a lack they are in the community. And so in all of your points there, there is a gap here and I love also treating a simulator with respect and realities them. And again not the call of duty crowd as you call it where you’re approaching it with professionalism.

I say that quite a bit that you approach a simulator with professionalism because especially in the real pilot space you have to treat it like a real airplane and you’ve got to make sure that you don’t build negative habits as well that go against your real training.

Stephen: One of the things that we are doing to try and impress upon people is that you are going to treat this sim with respect. A great way of describing it is I think the fidelity of the visuals so we’re not trying to just change the visuals to attract a completely different crowd. We are trying to bring this simulation up to date in a variety of ways. One of them is related to the visuals because I think when it appears more believable you are more willing to immerse yourself in that world. One of the things that perhaps have bugged me about flight simulation as I have become more and more involved in it is that you ask the user currently, your virtual pilot to imagine a load of scenarios and to initiate many of those scenarios themselves.

I’ll give you an example, you don’t really care in my flight simulators how you take off, how you depart an airports and how you arrive at an airport. If you want to play by the numbers and do it properly you’re almost acting that out by initiating these systems. For example talking to air traffic control. I want to make it so that that world that exists in reality is transferred into the simulator. So if you don’t do these things appropriately there is almost, I don’t like to use the word negative but there is a bonus if you do things properly and if you know what you’re doing.

Then you feel compelled to treat the simulator with the respect that it deserves. It doesn’t mean that you can’t just go off and enjoy free flight and do whatever you want with no negatives. You can, you buy into Flight School you can do what you want with it. If you want to get the most out of it then you go through these training programs and get to grips with what it means to be a pilot. You apply that knowledge and fly things appropriately you will ultimately I hope, care about the aircraft and you will care about your record as a pilot that’s what’s important to me.

If somebody kept me the keys to a 172 tomorrow I’m going to treat that thing with respect not only because I’m a student pilot, not qualified. But I want to get back down again and I want people to feel the same when they are flying in the simulator. There is some people that was really buy into that vision that we’re in the space already. And then one of my buddies now if I can call him that, he’s Scott at A2A and I love the work that he’s doing. He totally gets this and it’s really fascinating chatting to him. That guy is amazing I love what he is doing with his stuff.

And that’s what I think simulation is all about. It’s not about being totally overwhelmed, it’s having sufficient depth that justifies your time commitment to the simulator. And that experience with a simulator needs to be transferable to the real world. Not everybody has got the money to be a student pilot and get their qualifications. But you can learn an awful lot from simulators today and I wouldn’t turn my nose up at them. We just want to make this more authentic and bring more people back into this space.

Chris: Yes absolutely. For me I actually I do see that this could be a bridge if you will between people that have liked simulation and liked aviation of them kind of being apprehensive about learning to fly. And getting a feel for what it is really like and learning some of the knowledge. I think it could turn a lot of people on to pursuing that dream and I hope that that does happen in certain cases. In the beginning of your remarks there you touched on something more in mentioning Scott of A2A that I think is worth mentioning again. And it’s something I talk about whole lot and that is believability.

Some of the best learning in a simulator in fact the best learning in a simulator happens when even for a few moments they may be microseconds, they may be seconds, they may be a minute but generally our brain can only do this for a few microseconds. When for that minute amount of time we forget that we are in a simulator. When that happens then the learning takes place then we are believing or purse seeing are then we are saying oh my gosh this is dangerous I’m better near this landing. That is where the real learning takes place and so I am really happy to hear that you guys are not only paying attention to the learning and the experience of taking a private pilot course.

But also paying attention to the fact that the visuals do offer a lot when it comes to believing that you are in the simulator. There are different options out there with simulators right now. There is X-Plane, there is FSX steam edition of course there is prepar3d and then there is some other minor ones that are coming out, they’re kind of cool. So some different options out there in other words.

Stephen: There are options out there and they are all fantastic simulators in their own right but they are all doing the same kind of thing. And I almost describe them as laboratory simulators. You have to fill in the blanks yourself in order to complete the picture. And you were just talking about for example the experience you get the visual fidelity that you have to fill in those plans and make you feel as if you are really there and protector of not only the aircraft but yourself. You’re not just flying with the aircraft I want you to feel as though you are in the aircraft operating it.

Not only have been for many a year involved in Formula One products that’s kind of where I transferred into this aviation space in this flight sim space, from 18 months ago. And they used to have these discussions with the drivers all the time because in the world of Formula One which is obviously highly competitive as most kind of motorsports are they look for the edge in their own software in their own simulators. And the drivers get limited amount of track time and then they spend an awful lot of time in the simulator. And one of the things that they feedback to the development teams all the time is yes it feels like I’m driving the car yes I get the sense that I’m getting the same kind of performance of the car and this is all highly accurate. But I don’t feel as though I’m really driving the car because the experience isn’t being transmitted to me in the same way as it would as if I was in the real car.

It’s looks too vanilla it’s not the real experience I would get when I’m driving the car, the audio is wrong and yes it’s suggesting the right things in a laboratory conditions but I don’t get the sense that I’m driving the car. So one of the things that we did on previous racing projects I was involved in is work with the teams to supply better assets to make the experience more believable for the drivers.

So that they can forget that they are in our simulator and better put themselves into that world. And this is what we want to try to do with flight sim is the collection of all of these things that make you feel as though you are flying an aircraft from the audio to the visuals, to the need to care about your hours, to air traffic controls where they exist, to care about planning your flights to care about the weather all of this stuff that you know as a pilot. That can completely wash over people when they start treating it’s like a toy.

But when you start to have a little fear about I’m actually flying 2 or 3000 feet now and I’m losing visibility, I’m going through bad weather that’s cool and that’s what we are trying to capture with this. There’s going to be a lot of work to do in the next few years but I think we get this and I am just excited about trying to transmit that in a new product label.

Chris: I reminds me of airline training and the multi-million-dollar emotions platform gigantic simulators where in the real, you are in a real cockpit with a wraparound screen and some of the new visuals on those simulators are out of this world I’ve never seen anything like it. Actually I have seen something like if it looks at not like a really nice simulators in the gaming world but that industry is finally catching up a little bit. It’s reminds me of that’s because I’ve heard of instances where more so in the corporate pilot world. Where guys will come, cocky guys that went on the simulator feeling on full of themselves came out totally sweaty and on the verge of tears because of how much crap someone just put them through.

It is definitely have believable experience and to a certain experience you can do that at the desktop level now where the visuals are getting so fantastic. And you know I’ve had the opportunity to try virtual reality a little bit and that takes things to the next level. So I really again I just really like the idea of that being done for Flight School. Because there is nothing else out there that really does that. There’s some of the old Microsoft stuff that does it, and Angle of Attack has their own products that do that but it’s not in this simulator and it’s not interactive. So I just really like that idea.

Let’s talk a little bit more if you can and I don’t want you to share anything you can’t of course. But I’d like to talk a little bit more about the simulators specifically and what people can expect to experience as they go through it. So I don’t know if that remains a little bit more vague or if you want to share a couple more cool details. But I’ll just make you have the floor on that a little bit.

Stephen: There is certain things I can and cannot say but I give you as much as I can right now before we’ve launched it or we go up to with a marketing PR I don’t want to give away. What’s what we’re trying to do is focus on two key types of license. One is the LAPL in Europe which is more of a recent addition, it’s a bit more like kind of sports or recreational certificates you would get in the US. Light Aircraft Pilot License is something that I could go to for example as a student now, an unqualified pilots and say I’m not interested in really flying internationally or in Europe. I just want to have a slight less demanding certainly in terms of the hours and financial investments training program that enables me to legally fly as a qualified pilot around the city in UK.

And I could do that now with fewer hours than I would have to invest in a private pilot license, there is more limitations on me. I can add some kind of endorsements and get my night rating for example what they have in Europe and that’s part of the training in the US PPL for example. And we’re trying to capture that the LAPL is if you wish to go down that path in flight school your introductory experience, so you choose the Light Aircraft Pilot License training program in the UK. And you would be treated as an absolute novice. We don’t not expect you to have aviation knowledge and for me that’s incredibly important.

And it’s a difficult thing to overcome because there is a whole bunch of us on this project that have a wealth of aviation experience and we’ve got a bunch of qualified pilots in the different studios around the world working with. And everybody quickly wants to get past the basics and start throwing all sorts of terminology at one of these pilots. And we have to hold ourselves back and say we completely agree, this is how you would operate the aircraft, these are the basic things you need to know. And we quickly get you up to speed with this is how you take off, this is how you can bring the aircraft back down, this is how you navigate, this is how you perform a balanced turn all sorts of stuff that gets you up to speed with being a pilot.

And beyond that the main thing that you would be looking to achieve is qualification as a private pilot. And we host a school in the US, a private pilot training program in a different aircraft, different instructor, US terminology, and that is a little more demanding and a very different airport and a different part of the world. And I think probably you’ll find that they kind of experience in pilots that perhaps think they know everything will tackle the PPL in the US. And they novice the kind of users that we’re bringing back into flight sim space will go for the LAPL in Europe.

You kind of pick and choose you can do whatever you want I don’t try to force you through a particular training program. But if you want to hoover up the entire experience maybe you will start with the LAPL in Europe. You will complete that’s, get your wings there and then you will travel to the US and take that training on. Without giving too much a way as to what else might appear.

There can be other training programs and the structure set up for us to offer different types of training, different types of endorsements over time. So I want to try and replicate ultimately the real world of aviation where you can start out by becoming a private pilot’s which is a huge achievement in my mind and I am still some way from doing that. But over time I think we want to bring people into the world of commercial aviation and then push you right up to getting your ATPL where you’re flying those airlines.

But there’s a sensible structure to doing that and I don’t want just to kind of be fly by night cowboys where we’re saying within 5 lessons you’re going to get your ATPL. That’s not what happens in reality and I don’t want to wash over the subject but we do start somewhere and where better to start than becoming a private pilot in the GA space.

Chris: I always heard that a private pilot license is your license to learn.

Stephen: That’s very good.

Chris: I think my examiner even told me that he said here it is handing it to me, here it is now this is your license to learn. And recently I went through my logbook and I was transferring it to a digital format in Foreflight which is a popular navigational app over here. Almost everyone knows what it is. I feel like people that don’t even know aviation know what it is because it is at the top of the list in iTunes and stuff like that. So I transferred that in Foreflight but in going down memory lane I had a look back at every step in my training and what it was like. And like you said it’s very hard for a pilot that has gone down the road of experience to look back and imagine what it was like in the beginning.

And really how much we didn’t know and that just goes with aviation. With aviation you start from nowhere really you just start with a passion you start with this excitement you get up in the air and change the world in which you’ve grown up in. And it’s built just one piece of knowledge at the time. You add one little thing at a time but that is knowledge as you said, it is not learned overnight, it is very important and it just takes time. I’m at this stage now where although I’ve had a lot of experience and I’ve seen a lot of things and I’ve done a lot of things in aviation and I’ve been studying it for years in different ways reading magazines and things like that and flying I just learn more all the time and how much I don’t know.

And how much more I need to learn so it’s great to hear that you guys have maybe a better off roadmap and I definitely can’t talk about anything along those lines but you have an idea that this could go other places to that we could go above private pilot and we could continue to fly. And I’ll just give this tip to people right now, when you go through the LAPL course or the private pilot course with Flight School that is when you start to jump in the free flight. That’s when know you know what it’s like to be a pilot, how to flight plan different things like that and now you go out and you start to do those fun things in your general area like where you live.

The other day I loaded up Foreflight for example here in my local tone in my simulator I had it all connected and I flew to a new airport in my local area but I did so realistically with a good simulator, good visuals, the A2A 172 that Scott did such a great job with and his team. And it was just so immersive, it was just so much fun I learned so much along the way and again because I just have that license to learn. So I’m really excited to see what’s that going to do for people because inevitably what it becomes.

Stephen: We are trying to give people those skills to hopefully get to the point where they can more hours something like free flight. And that isn’t where we’re going to stop. We’re going to do a lot more to the sim. I’m excited to talk about those things but I don’t want to give them away there is a roadmap. This is where we start, few things as you were talking that popped into my head that you are triggering thoughts off and that is when I told friends and family that I was leaving my last place of work to work for Dovetail games I was going to be taking a flight simulator a lot of my friends if you will I’ve grown up with said to me, flight simulator I used to love flight simulation.

Now they talk about it as if that some point it just died and went off the radar and obviously that’s not the case. But something happened where it was going into the background, I think, I get the impression it’s partly to do with the fact that flight simulation just continued to play out to the existing audience and if you haven’t been there from day one or weren’t willing to put in a huge amount of time and sometimes money into this it didn’t hook you and it didn’t kind of showcase it’s ways to you in a way that made you want to learn more. And this is what Flight School’s doing at the very beginning just as it would in the real world.

I’m excited about what it can lead to and Flight School is important so I am hoping that people buy into it as much as you seem to do. Because it’s a start of a very exciting journey and I think ultimately it benefits not only the new kind of user that could come into the flight sim space, the right kind of person. But the existing audience that I get the impression are desperate for somebody to lead the charge and make many of their dreams come true. Now we don’t do that overnight but I think we’ve got the right kind of people involved in this to really make a difference and talk the same language, understand where they are coming from and drive this forward to the point that we all end up with our modern, realistic, constantly, updated flight sim.

And really want that in this space. And I think we will create a bunch of future pilots out of this I really do. Where working with a guy a local flight school to where I’m living now and he grew up with flight simulation and went to operate with the RA for a number of years. He came out with that, he’s been part-time teaching at a local flight school. And I actually did my first lessons with him after getting back into flight sim and thinking I knew everything I turn up at the flight school and he’s talking me through the mechanics of the aircraft and I’m yeah I know these kind of things, I’ve been working with flight Sim for a while now blah, blah, blah. I know all about this stuff.

We go out, we’re taxiing towards the runway and where veering off the taxiway at which point he says to me left rudder, left rudder, left rudder. And I said to him, you’ve got the aircraft I haven’t got the aircraft and we’re making mistakes right from the beginning. I thought he had controlled he thought I had control these are just basic things. And this is actually where I started on flight sim, my research began with why do people make mistakes? How do accidents occur? Because I wanted to work back from that to understand well these are all qualified pilots. So where there wasn’t some kind of mechanical issue how do people make these kinds of mistakes and what do we need to teach people?

And as you already alluded to you are constantly learning. Don’t think ever that you know everything and it’s all well and good to say you’ve got these number of hours, these kind of experiences, you can say all the kind of acronyms and words under the sun. I’ve got PPL I’ve got an IR, I can fly a VFR in a carb, I can do this, that and the other. Fine, but you always got to be constantly aware and try to keep abreast of the latest developments.
And I think the best pilots are the ones that keep immersing themselves and try to keep up-to-date with all of the knowledge that exists out there on the Internet today. And this simulation is going to come along and hopefully people can apply the knowledge they can gain elsewhere in this flight sim as well as learning the introductory lessons that we have in the LAPL or the PPL. You can get a lot out of free flight immediately if you’re an experienced simmer but we mustn’t forget the new people that are coming into the space.

Chris: That’s really exciting I know that in particular our listeners here on AviatorCast will be really excited about taking that part of that journey. I know that we have a lot of real pilots, rated pilots, PPL, IR, that listen to this show even airline and military pilots plenty of different demographics. But we also have a lot of those that are partway through their license or they haven’t quite gotten there yet or they are purely flight simmers right now that haven’t really gotten into the real aviation space. Or even those that are real pilots that have never actually touched a flight sim before. This will be a really great opportunity for them to refresh their knowledge a little bit from their private pilots. And in the meantime get familiar with what a simulator can do for them.

So that’s a great opportunity as well. So tell us a little bit more in kind of winding down and wrapping up the show here, I don’t want to keep you up too late over there. Tell us what’s coming in the near future so we’ve talked about the sim, I know it’s coming pretty soon, tell us what that rollcall is going to be like and what we can expect and where we can get to that sort of thing.

Stephen: The initial rollout of the Flight School product is going to happen towards the end of April. So we’re talking about next month. Which as one of the developers in the project it scares me enormously I’m awfully excited about it.

Chris: Good luck!

Stephen: As a creative we want to as much time as possible to put more and more and more things into this. We’ve got a stack of stuff there that already people are enjoying and I’m excited to release that to the public. That’s going to be out on the Steam platform predominantly at the end of April. We’re going to have a WIN 10 version that follows sometime after that not too long hopefully. But this is going to be something that you would be able to purchase very soon, get on board with.

And sometimes companies do huge kind of PR campaigns and months and months sometimes years ahead of a product release. This is becoming available very soon so if you are the kind of person that buys the occasional add-on or game or simulator that’s out there on the market I hope people save their pennies for the end of April. And invest it in the start of a new flight simulator and a new experience and get on board with what we are trying to do.
I have seen a lot of chatter out there, I know a lot of people are excited about it I’m excited to get the hands on this new product and see what we’re doing. That’s going to be possible very soon.

Chris: Looking forward to it, I’ll be looking at my watch waiting for the day and of course I’ll try to get a little information ahead of time to give our listeners a heads up as well. Stephen I really appreciate your candor and your taking time in being with me and the listeners at large today. On behalf of all of our listeners I’m pretty sure a lot of people are going to be excited about this one. So it sounds like you’re doing good work I also appreciate you taking time to really understand what it’s like to go through flight training. It sounds like you’ve done actual boots on the ground work to see how that happens and I know that a lot of creative energy comes from exercises like that.

Sounds like you are on the right path. I’m excited, I’m sure our listeners are excited so please keep us in the loop and we’ll be there waiting with our credit card I guess for when that day comes.
Stephen: Thank you very much. It’s been an absolute pleasure to chat to you I’ve actually interestingly listen to these podcasts before, long before I got involved in this I thought it would be a great opportunity to chat to you. I’m always more than happy to talk to people that have got an interest in this space and it gives me a break from the day-to-day development and it’s really, really ignites my enthusiasm. I can’t wait to release this at the end of April and after this maybe I’ll get back to doing that.

Chris: Perfect, well we will talk to you again near the end of April, how about that?

Stephen: Thank you very much Chris, really appreciate it.

Chris: Thanks Stephen take care.

Stephen: Take care.

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 me@aviatorcast.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: So big things goes out to Stephen Hood for joining us on this episode of AviatorCast. Stephen we are excited for this simulator I think I speak for everyone when I say this is something that the community needs, it’s something that a lot of real pilots can latch on to, people looking to get into real flying. It’s something I think the community itself needs as far as the flight simulation community.

So I’m excited to see what you guys do here that’s coming up soon. So only about a month actually about two months if we come to the end of April. About two months and we’re going to be there. So great job, good luck wrapping things up with your team and we will be waiting with baited breath for the release of this wonderful simulator.
And if you guys want to check out Flight School yourself just go ahead and Google Dovetail Flight School and you should find some news articles there, some stuff on their website that sort of thing. Coming up soon it’s going to be great, really looking forward to it.

So wrapping up the show here big things go out to the Angle of Attack crew here for all the hard work that they do to make these episodes possible. There are a lot of guys working right now to make sure that things move forward and in the flight training media department. And I come here and do some fun things here with the community every week and those guys allow me to do that by continuing to move the work forward.

So I really appreciate them. Thank you the listeners for being here, for spreading the word, for being an evangelist of aviation, for sharing aviation with those that you know and love. This is a great community, I am honored to be a part of it I hope you are too. If there’s anything that I can ever do to help you guys feel free to reach out me@aviatorcost.com. And I’ll be more than happy to point you in the right direction, give you a nudge whatever it is, answering a question and I hope that you guys continue to move forward, reach for your dreams and if you want to become a pilot you can do it.

So that’s it I look forward to talking to you guys next time you then throttle on!


This entry has 6 replies

Interesting that there is talk about how diverse the world’s flight schools are and the attempt to mimic this, yet a Piper Super Cub is said to be 1 of 2 planes available. There are no Super Cubs available for training at any flight school in the NYC area and most other major metropolitan cities in the world. I would be correct that one is more likely to fly in a C172 or one of 20 other aircraft than a Super Cub. If DTG wants DT Flight School to be taken as authentic, the Super Cub choice should be reconsidered (probably too late). In my view only students of bush flying may be presented a Super Cub limiting (not diverse) Flight School to a very small segment of aviation flight school. If there were 10 planes then there would be no problem, but with a choice of only 2 a Super Cub is a very limited first choice, according to reality.


There’s probably not a place in the US that you can rent a super cub. A regular cub? Yes, but even those are very rare for rent because most places don’t rent tail-wheels due to liability.

Almost all training in the US is either a Cessna 152/172 or a Cherokee of some vintage. In Europe you may see more Socotas.

The reason they went with the super cub is probably because of it’s simplicity. But if they are really doing a sim based around flight training, they need a 4 seat 140-180 4 cylinder piston airplane.

Check out Andover Flight Academy in NJ. They have a Cub, Legend Super Cub and a Stearman.

Now that was a great podcast! I recently started to look for a well made simulator for training purposes, but didn’t like the FSX as it doesn’t use PC’s resources effectively. I’m really looking forward to try out this new SIM by Dovetail Games. I really hope that this will be the SIM i’m looking for.

Fantastic interview and I’m actually genuinely excited at the prospects of a new sim keeping the hobby alive. Thanks for the interview.

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