An Interview (8 September 2010)
Recently FlightSim.Com chatted with a Juan Botero, an active member of the Alpha India Group team, who is primarily involved in beta testing of flight plans before release. Juan lives in Colombia and recently got his commercial pilot license.
When did you start developing add-ons?
I believe it was in early 2003, I had recently come home to Medellin from a trip to Detroit, visiting some relatives. I wanted to recreate the flights, and I had recently discovered custom AI traffic. I downloaded the relevant sceneries, some flight plans, many PAI packages (which I thought was the ultimate thing in AI), and then realized that the aircraft seemed to park wherever they liked. I then discovered AFCAD and all its nifty features and tweaked them to suit my taste. I guess that was the first add on that I developed per se.
I tweaked many AFCAD's over the years, but since they were always built on top of existing ones I never really thought of releasing any of them. I did do one from scratch, one for my local airport, and I believe it is still lurking somewhere in the library.
More or less the same thing happened with flight planning. Some tweaking, then some very poorly made flight plans of my own and then getting consistently better. At about this time EvolveAI got retired and AIG created and I took a more active role there, actually posting every once in a while on the forums. About a year ago, I contacted the team saying I wanted to be a beta tester and they promptly welcomed me in.
Is there a team?
Sure. There are several of them in fact; there is AIG Dispatch which takes care of flight planning, AIG Ground which does AFCAD's, AIG Spray which paints the sporadic models released. Within each team all sorts of things are shared, from airport charts to build AFCAD's accurately to airline timetables. In addition, other members answer any questions or doubts raised by any one member and we all learn from the response.
Do you have any experience (or lust?) for real aviation?
I just got my commercial pilot's license last month. I am still waiting for it to be issued by the Colombian civil aviation authority. After that, I plan to send my resume to several airlines and just wait for a selection process. My future seems to be filled with lots of uncertainty and doubt right now.
Any memorable flights in real life?
I'm still young enough to think of all flights as memorable, especially solo flights. To think that you took an airplane up in the sky (and back down again in one piece) all by yourself never ceases to be thrilling.
My most memorable flight was right before my commercial check ride. I was all alone in a C150 made about 40 or 50 years ago. In it I made several localizer approaches (it didn't have a glide slope installed) over at SKRG. I even got vectored and put on a hold due to traffic; it was the closest thing to being in an airline and the fact that I was all alone filled me with a real sense of accomplishment.
I always seem to recall several emergencies I had. Losing the vacuum pump on my second flight was intriguing, but not threatening. Losing a magneto on climb out was a bit more exhilarating, but still not a very big problem. Losing all radios and having to ask for landing clearance by buzzing the control tower and then receiving said clearance via a light gun was the flight of my life so far.
More on that "real life" of yours?
As I said, I'm unemployed, but if there are any airline CEO's reading this then kindly contact me for a very complete resume.
How many add-ons have you done?
For my use, several hundred. I've released only one so far. However, I have beta tested plenty of flight plans as part of AIG, all of them available in the library.
What's your most popular work?
As I've only published one work then that would have to be it, but AIG has released hundreds of plans some of which I have tested.
What about your favorite projects?
I love adding airlines into my FS. I just take things to the next level by beta testing. I like to think of it as giving something back to a community that has given me so much. There is nothing like the feeling I get of having an AI plane depart at exactly the same time and to the same destination as its real-life counterpart. It is nothing short of art.
How about your goals in choosing a project?
If I see an airline I like in the testing queue then I go ahead and test it. Other than that, I go first for airlines that have been tested once before and give them a second test so that we can release the airline as soon as possible. We test all airlines at least two times to ensure the highest possible quality. Another tester easily finds any mistakes missed by the first beta tester. My third criterion is maintaining a first in, first out system, so the oldest airline in the queue is tested first.
Are you working with FS2004 or FSX or both?
Both, FS2004 flight plans can very easily be converted either way. Our flight plans even work with FS2002.
What software packages do you use?
I use WinZip for extracting files, Notepad for checking them visually and then all sorts of different tools to test them.
I use TTools Companion to check for time errors, AIFP to check for duplicate flights, AITM to check for turnaround times, AIFPC and TTools to ensure the files compile properly, the MRAI installer I don't personally use for installing airlines, but I do use it to check the AIG files.
Many of these tools also serve additional functions, all of which are thoroughly used before we give a green light.
Have you any future projects?
I've made flight plans for my local flight school, however no repaints are available. I might learn to repaint and tackle them myself, but I don't really feel like I have enough time to do so. I might do it someday.
I would someday like to write a series of articles, or a column of some sort, much in the style of the Golden Argosy series, or maybe an ask the pilot sort of thing but flightsim oriented. Who knows? I still need the experience and for that, I need a job first. One must learn to crawl before learning to walk.
What can sites like FlightSim.Com do to support the hobby?
As far as I can see, you already do a very good job at supporting the hobby. The fact that it all is free is a very positive aspect of the community and it might push more people into giving something back like in my case.
I love the series written by Tony Vallillo, his insights and peeks into what goes on in an airline cockpit have been invaluable to me and I like to believe that I am a better pilot today because of it. Any similar work like that would certainly be priceless to the community.
What about the future of flight simulation, even beyond FSX?
We should all just wait and see. No one has any idea how good future projects will be. Or the mistakes, errors and bugs that every piece of software inherently has. We will just have to wait for the time being. Regardless, we at AIG will continue to develop flight plans for the time being, and the prospects of future sims will be evaluated thoroughly when the time is right. For now, enjoy our high quality flight plans, AFCAD's, repaints, models, and teamwork.
View Juan Botero related add-ons in the FlightSim.Com file library