• Freeware Focus: The Story Of PAD

    The Story Of PAD

    By Bob May

    Premier Aircraft Design was founded by Barry Blaisdell in 1995. Barry was an ex USAF and U.S. Army pilot and aviation enthusiast who was grounded on medical advice and wanted a hobby to keep him in touch with the aviation world and aviation people. A short synopsis of Barry's flying career can be found here.

    In 1995 flight simulation on personal computers was still in its infancy but was beginning to be opened up to budding developers by the publication of tools to create models for Microsoft FS5. Barry took up this challenge and began to make and publish his models. At first PAD (Premier Aircraft Design) was a one man band but soon Barry began to co-operate with others. Trev Morson was one of Barry's early collaborators and they produced several variants of the Douglas DC-3 together. Other collaborations followed, the most notable being with Kevin Pardy, Jens Borgstroem, Udo Lemmob and Pavel Toman. A history of PAD would not be complete without these mentions because they helped to lift both the quality and the quantity of the early work that PAD turned out. Today there are over 1100 files listed in the FlightSim.Com file library with either Barry's or PAD's name on them.

       

    My own involvement with PAD started in 2000. Like many, probably most, flightsimmers I was, and still am, a wannabe pilot. I spent several years in the RAF as a photographic technician and I've had flying lessons and also belonged to a gliding club but through a combination of not enough money and family commitments, (they go together!) I was never actually able to achieve the goal of a pilot's licence in my pocket. I flirted with a few computer based flight simulators but never had the necessary hardware to get the best out of them until 2000 when at the age of 61 I was able to purchase the almost latest PC and I immediately trotted down to the software store to pick up the latest MS Flight Simulator, FS2000. Everyone now knows that FS2000 was a dog but I didn't know that and I was enthralled with it. This is where FlightSim.Com and PAD come into my story. I wondered if it would be possible to buy additional aircraft for FS2000 and a search turned up FlightSim.Com. I discovered to my amazement that not only were there hundreds of different models available but they were free!

    I downloaded a lot and found out pretty soon that some were better than others. Some of my favorites were Barry's models, they looked good, flew well and installed without any fuss or "file fiddling". I decided to drop an email to Barry to thank him. He replied the next day with his usual "You're welcome" but added at the bottom " Can you paint FS models? I'm snowed under with repaint requests and it's slowing down my design work". At the time I was into watercolor painting of landscapes so I replied and said I can paint but I don't have a clue how to paint your models. He then offered to send me the necessary software tools and to teach me how to use them. And that's how I came to join Barry. After a few months he generously added my name to his work as his partner and my involvement in PAD grew to web site design and upkeep, panel design and flight dynamics design. I tinkered with Gmax and FSDS but I never really got my head around all that node pulling and smoothing.

       

    PAD moved up a gear in 2004 when Jean-Pierre Brisard, a retired architect living in northern France, asked Barry for some help with a couple of models he was working on. His work was impressive and Barry and I immediately offered to help. Working with JP, as we called him, was a real pleasure. He was very good at design work but always ready to learn something new and he was a fierce advocate of freeware.

    JP soon took over all the external design work, leaving Barry free to do the panel design and myself to do the flight testing and churn out the repaints that were being constantly requested. We now had a production line. During this period we collaborated with several other aviation enthusiasts who had specialist knowledge of particular aircraft and their names were included in the credits as technical advisors. JP could make a new model in a week but it took a further ten weeks on average to refine the model, add the panel and VC, the flight dynamics and external embellishments. During our "production line" period 2004 to 2011 we were often working on two or three models at the same time, each one in a different stage of development. It's as well that by this time all three of us were retired, we would never have found time to go to work!

    Barry's health deteriorated in the period 2004 to 2008 and he then announced to us that he could not continue any longer in an active role so he became our non-active President.

    JP and I continued as a two man team, both of us learning new skills as went on to fill in the void left by Barry's departure, and those last three years 2008 to 2011 were probably the most productive, JP's work just got better and better.

       

    Our last published model was the Fokker 100 airliner, released in July 2011. A few days after that release I heard from JP's son that he had passed away suddenly at home. He was working on a new model of the Dassault Falcon 20 at the time, a model that he had always wanted to make but had put on the back burner whilst he dealt with the many model requests that we had.

    To add to the sadness Barry passed away on 3rd October 2012, he was the youngest of the PAD team but had suffered poor health for many years.

    So what now for PAD? Since JP died no more new models have been made, nor will they be, but he and Barry left a legacy of over 50 models for FS2004 and FSX that are still being downloaded and enjoyed by the flight simming community so I have set myself the task of keeping the PAD web site alive for as long as we get visitors.

    At present we average over 800 visits per day and 15,000 downloads per month. With the help of Stephanie Lawton and Jim Harris, my talented repainters, PAD offers several new repaints each week and the list has now grown to over 500 repaints available. We also publish repaints of PAD models by other painters who care to send in their work. I also update and re-release some models periodically on FlightSim.Com, judged by the number of downloads this has been a success and I hope that as a result some new users have been introduced to PAD.

    The support desk is still very active and I'm happy to continue Barry's policy of encouraging and helping newcomers to our hobby.

       

    I guess in a way the ending of the Microsoft Flight Simulator franchise with FSX has prolonged PAD's existence. If FS11 had come along we would not have been a player in providing freeware for the new sim and simmers would have moved on from FSX without us. As it is FSX is going strong, payware developers are still making add-ons for it and the scenery now available is wonderful. Even FS2004 still has its fans and we are happy to provide models and repaints for them.

    The FlightSim.Com file library is growing as fast as it ever did which shows that interest in flight simulation has not diminished so I'm hoping to be a part of it for a few more years to come.

    Bob May
    www.premaircraft.com

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    19 Comments
    1. snowingairlines's Avatar
      snowingairlines -
      You guys made fabulous models. It is a sad story of what happened in the end. I have just about all of your latter models, and enjoy them a lot.
    1. darrenvox's Avatar
      darrenvox -
      I have just about the same
    1. abic's Avatar
      abic -
      You guys are really the pioneers and protagonists of the FREEWARE idea and community for the flightsimulator. Inevitable the trend goes towards payware but that is OK as long it's keeping the flightsimulator alive.
      I'm still an old fashioned FS9 enthusiast and waiting for a major new improvement in FS, not meaning that FSX is bad but not the step forward I was looking for.
    1. BoromirX's Avatar
      BoromirX -
      Thank you PAD, for all the contributions over the years. Bob, thanks for sharing the sad but real story about its history.

      I just picked up the Dash 8-300 and she flies like a dream.
    1. StuartOutram's Avatar
      StuartOutram -
      Bob,

      Thank you for sharing your experience. Including the knowledge that whatever the hobby holds for us all, much of the pleasure derived comes from the friendships that we have developed over the years. With no 'hooliganism' no lack of respect, although just maybe too many beers sunk after a new model has been released?


      It is also a tremendous encouragement, to know that we 'wannabee' pilots, are still around, at a time when very young people are still signing up to Flight Simulation. Not too surprising, for it is a most engrossing and often demanding pastime. I personally have moved through the years, from the 'Lite' products, to grapple with the technology of the newer payware. This has proved to be another level of immersion, and I am certain that there is room for all genres, at all levels. I have not regretted paying for some of the new stuff, which is jaw-dropping in its presentation and need for detailed knowledge to make it fly correctly.

      Your products will always act as a portal and a rite of passage through to the more complex models. There will always be a need, for without it, the step-up is great indeed!

      The passing of your friends is lamentable. They would be pleased to know that their legacy continues, whilst ever you are there to be the guardian of your combined work.

      Stuart.
    1. alfie1's Avatar
      alfie1 -
      Long may your freeware ethic and PAD's legacy of beautiful USABLE aircraft continue. I am certain that your website WILL get enough visitors to keep you busy for many years to come.
    1. alanmerry's Avatar
      alanmerry -
      Bob,

      Many thanks for your models and for your encouragement when I have repainted a few of them.
      Without people such as yourself and the other contributors to PAD and flightsim.com, flight simulator would not have become the realistic and absorbing software that it is (and most of it free!)

      Alan Merry
    1. logjam2650's Avatar
      logjam2650 -
      Per Ardua Pad Astra
    1. erkder's Avatar
      erkder -
      Stumbled across and downloaded my first PAD model just two days ago, the DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 so I could do the flight into Lukla. Already spent a good 6-8hrs in it and seriously cant believe this is Freeware! Its obvious the amount of time and care that went into making these models. Cant wait to download the rest! Thanks so much.
    1. jamminjames's Avatar
      jamminjames -
      Great aircraft, great website, and GREAT people!!!!!!!!! THANKS
    1. dootje's Avatar
      dootje -
      Dear Bob,

      I am till this day honoured and proud to have worked with you guys at PAD. I was so motivated to finish the project because Barry kindly offered to help me out. He will be missed, as will JP.

      I am happy to hear you are continuing to run the website and provide support to those who need it. It is a great shame that there will be no new releases. In the last couple of years many freeware designers have abandoned their hobby for various reasons.

      I salute you Bob, and the members of PAD who are now looking down upon us from the blue skies !!!

      Kind regards,

      Udo Lemmob.
    1. spreilly's Avatar
      spreilly -
      I'm sure that if you put it out there, a few modelers/repainters would be willing to start the PAD assembly line again.
    1. mikeoood's Avatar
      mikeoood -
      Thanks for all your hard work and sharing your creations to the flight sim community for FREE. I especially enjoy flying your amphibious planes. Keep up the GOOD work!
    1. asos's Avatar
      asos -
      PAD has been one of my favorites since the year 2000, I believe I have everything, or almost, of what they made.

      They are among the best and rank as high as payware models and in some cases they make better planes than certain payware makers.
    1. byker1ky's Avatar
      byker1ky -
      Bob May, thank you for the work that you did and PAD is a great testament to Quality work. Both Barry Blaisdell and Jean-Pierre Brisard (may the rest in peace) will be remembered for many years to come because of their their commitment to the highest quality. That is quite a legacy. I fly PAD's CTsw on a regular basis and I, too, am impressed with it's flyability as well it's detail in design. I would have paid for this and truly appreciate that is was available for free.
      Note - I begin RW flying this month in a CTLS and your CTsw has allowed me to become familiar with the cockpit layout as well as many other aspects of the plane.

      Thank you again.
      Keith
    1. Brad Quiring's Avatar
      Brad Quiring -
      Some of my favourite planes have been from PAD and I continue to enjoy the flights. Thanks to all you guys from Premier.
    1. taentheboss's Avatar
      taentheboss -
      PAD is one of the best models I still use until now

      Thanks Bob
    1. ponchovilla's Avatar
      ponchovilla -
      Bob, just a simple Thank You from one of your many fans. So sad that Barry and JP are no longer here with us, but I think that looking down from above they would be both proud and pleased. Every summer I pull out the wonderful DHC Turbo Beaver Amphibian and fly it from my "base" in Northern California up to Alaska for my annual "Alaska Tour" in FS9. When I am flying in Alaska I am appreciative of such a capable aircraft, and the sound of that PT-6 out in front is humming in my ears all summer long. When I land back at "home" every year I always feel immensely satisfied. Thank you so much for such great work!
    1. reckless888's Avatar
      reckless888 -
      Bob and the PAD members in 'missing man' formation,

      Thank you.