As you probably all know, FlightSimLabs is very busy with the development of the A3xx Master Series product line for Microsoft Flight Simulator X.
The FSLabs A320 will include an entirely custom animated external model, a complete 2D panel set and a fully immersive 3D virtual cockpit, allowing the flight simulator pilot an in-depth experience of this very popular aircraft and much more.
You can read all the other features at FlightSim Lab’s website, but wouldn’t it be great to speak Lefteris Kalamaras, CEO of FS Labs, himself?
Aerosoft Sim News had this opportunity and presents ….
Part I of an exclusive interview with Lefteris.
Due to what did FSLabs decide to go for an Airbus?
The A320 has always been in our heart. It’s the aircraft you see most often in airports nowadays, as most airlines realize the savings and efficiency it offers. With over 2900 A320s already out in production and another 2700 on order, the A320 is one of the most prolific and successful airplanes that exist today.
Given its technologies, with full fly-by-wire and computer controlled systems, it was a challenge worthy of a Flight Sim Labs simulation product and a direct successor to our Concorde-X. Your readers might not know this, but a lot of the technologies in the A320 today are based on systems and development first introduced and tested on the Concorde.
It’s only logical,
therefore, for FSLabs to continue where the Concorde-X left off!
How long took it to develop this A32x,
from the moment the team decided to go for an Airbus?
We’re now in our second year of development and we’re going strong! Our expectations are that a product of this caliber should not be done in a sloppy manner, so, while we’re designing this product from the ground up, starting from its infrastructure (how each system talks to the others) and going as deep as it takes to model every section of the aircraft in the detail that will satisfy us, as simmers, first and foremost, we are also taking advantage of some of the ground breaking FSLabs innovations first seen with the Concorde-X.
Which A32X model will be simulated and does it comes with the old DU’s or with the never square EFIS panels?
As you are well aware, the A320 spans two generations in design. The older A320s featured Electronic Information System (EIS) v1 and CRT displays with the classic “round corner” monitors and the light blue color.
Since 1999, Airbus has been pushing out the newer Electronic Information System v2 which also happens to feature newer LCD technology displays. The FSLabs A320-X is modeled after the latest version of the A320s that are in production currently.
The newer EIS2 standards are very different on the inside than the older version, so it’s not just a matter of switching from older CRT technology to newer LCDs and simply providing a couple new bitmaps to display them - there are significant upgrades and improvements that we’re paying particular attention to, in order to simulate the A320 in the best way possible.
What are the short term plans when this A32X model is launched?
Well, the very short term plans are for the team to take a few days of vacation to enjoy the release. We’ve been working on this product literally non-stop for a very long time, wanting to ensure that we put as much functionality and detail as we possibly can.
You see, we’re simmers above all, so we want to be enjoying what we create together with (and possibly even more than) our customers, sharing the virtual skies of VATSIM and IVAO.
After we relax a little bit, there are two other models to follow, the A319 and the A321 (not necessarily in that order). I’d like to note for your readers though that, while these aircraft enjoy many similarities and a common type rating with the A320, there are also some significant differences, not only in the visual aspect (external model size, etc) but also in their systems (different fuel tanks in the A321) which we intend to fully simulate, so we’re not going to be releasing them in just a couple of weeks after the A320 – we’ll take our time to ensure we’ve done it properly, as usual.
Are there already long term plans … other Airbus models?
The A320 series of aircraft addons has been in our hearts for the past two years already. However, we cannot discard or ignore any of the other Airbus aircraft – in fact, one of our favorites is the A330, in its sleek form and majestic beauty.
We expect that shortly after we are finished with the A320 series, we will be moving into the larger siblings, starting with the A330 and moving over to the A340 as well.
Any thoughts of simulating the Airbus A310/A300 Series?
Not many people are aware of this, but one of the newer members of our development team is Bjorn Comhaire, producer and developer of the SimCheck A300-B4 addon which has already claimed many awards in its category.
We’re proud to have Bjorn on our team, not only because he’s one of the best developers out there, but also because we really love and enjoy his product. Bjorn already has an A300-600 development under way which he plans to release later this year.
As such, we feel that even though we didn’t actually produce them, his A300 series are worthy of your readers’ attention.
Any ideas or wishes to simulate other vendors like a Fokker, Douglas or even Boeing model?
In a way, we’ve already developed some of them. As the former director of technical development at a well-known addon vendor, I’ve been part of the design team on several small and big Boeing aircraft as well as on the McDonnell-Douglas MD-11 which is still enjoying tremendous success in the simulation market.
At the moment, we’re firmly focused on the Airbus family, but as new simulator products come out, there will eventually be new need for simmers to have their favorite addons represented there.
In time we hope to grow FSLabs to have several products simultaneously under development, so time will tell!
Are there also old-fashioned aircraft’s on FSL list to simulate?
As you know, with flight simulation development, there is no limit to ambition – the only limit is time to do all that one sets out to do. We are still a small development team, so we need to choose carefully the products that we strive to complete.
We have to listen to our customers and plan ahead in order to continue to be as successful in this market. However, this does not mean we don’t have our internal wish-list of aircraft to simulate – we have several licensed pilots on our development team (in fact, most hold a private pilot’s license and fly regularly in the real skies) so there are smaller and older aircraft that we also have access to and would love to put in front of our customers if time permits.
I cannot go into details at this time, but there are several possibilities that we’re already exploring in this regard.
In what way is the FSL A32X model different then competitors?
The existing A320 models in the market fall under two categories: Those which simulate the visual aspect of the aircraft in a somewhat successful manner but leave out any detailed system simulation, and those which don’t even simulate the visual aspect of the aircraft so well, but are intended to be affordable introductions to simulation addons without any of the complexity that is found in the more upscale products.
As such, none of the A320s out in the market currently perform well in our books. As we’re simmers, above all, we’ve always wanted to have an A320 aircraft that will perform well in all categories: Be the best visual model with accuracy that is yet unparalleled in the market, but also take systems simulation to the extreme, providing a fidelity that can only be compared with our previous product, the Concorde-X.
In our A320, the virtual pilot will not only enjoy a visually stimulating product with even the smallest label being clearly readable on the external model wings, fuselage and engine, but will also be able to fly the way only licensed ATPL pilots were previously able to fly, whether in a Class-D motion simulator or in the real aircraft.
Is the FMGEC using AIRAC data (I suppose so,
but worth to know)?
The short answer is yes, absolutely.
To go into a little more detail though, I’d like to give a bit of background: Most modern aircraft in the real world (Boeing, Airbus or McDonnell-Douglas) use a Flight Management and Guidance System manufactured by Honeywell, Collins, or Thales.
While the internal representation and functionality of each FMGS component varies greatly from the other, they all share one common denominator: They receive their source navigation data in the same format: a text file containing navigation information (what most simmers know as “the AIRAC cycle”) which comes in a standardized format, called ARINC 424, and is split into two different parts – the “standard”, which contain data common to all airlines world-wide and the “tailored” which is airline-specific and can be modified to fit individual needs.
Each airline receives this text file in 28-day updates from one of various major database providers, such as Jeppesen or Lufthansa Services – formerly called LIDO. They then process the ARINC 424 file to make it fit their individual needs, excluding areas of the world the airline doesn’t fly to, for example, or adding data that is particular to the airline itself in the tailored section, and upload it into their aircraft’s FMGS.
The FSLabs A320-X is the first product in the market that can read a source ARINC424 text file, as provided by real-world database providers and, using its internal data converter, produce the database format which our FMGS reads. This means that any provider of AIRAC data for simulation purposes (Navigraph or others) can license our converter and, using real world source data, provide their customers with the full data package that our A320-X will read.
As simple as that!
What’s even more cool: for those of your readers (or virtual airlines) who like to tweak their own database, we also intend to provide a small utility to manipulate data and allow changes to the tailored section, similar to what real airlines do! (but please allow us the possibility that this utility might come after release of the main product).
End of Part I … to be continued