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.
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