Interview With Robert Cezar
When did you start developing for flight simulators and what got you interested in it?
I think it was in 2001 that an Italian friend and colleague, who is also a software engineer, gave me a gift of Microsoft's Flight Simulator program. Never having piloted an aircraft before, either in real life or in simulation, my first attempts at simulated flight ended with many torn undercarriages and propellers buried into the ground. As I became more proficient I began creating add-on features for myself just to make the flights more interesting. In 2002, once I had the simulation skills under my belt, and again for my own interest, I planned each step of my journey and flew around the world using a Cessna C182T, using real time, real dates, real weather, real fuel consumption, etc. and noting interesting details along the way. This adventure took about a year to complete.
All the additional software I had written eventually grew into a full application. Having always been an entrepreneur, in 2007 when asked by numerous other simmers to publish the software, I launched It's Your Plane (IYP), and I included in the package my Trip Around the World.
Tell us about the nature of your designs and what you do?
It's Your Plane is a voice control co-pilot system for FS2004, FSX and Prepar3D. My aim is to bring an added dimension to flight simulation that can be used by simmers of all abilities, from bush-pilots, to those who prefer to fly-by-the-book, to pilots who simply enjoy hopping into the cockpit of a Cessna Skyhawk. In particular, Helen, Lars and I are consumed with the desire to help people who are blind or visually impaired to also experience the joy of flight simulation.
With the exception of the interface that I created for the Level-D 763 and the Boeing 737-800 interface I wrote for Pete Dowson, my interest is not focused on providing an environment for those simmers who enjoy spending 35 minutes "prepping" the aircraft just to get to the runway. Rather, we decided at the very outset to direct our efforts towards "weekend" pilots. Our aim is to have Michelle interact with the pilot to execute all of the requisite checklists to ensure proper flight techniques (pre-flight, before start up, start up, before taxi, taxi, before takeoff, takeoff and climb-out, cruising, descent, approach and landing, taxi to the gate/ramp, parking, shutdown). We don't worry about such items as engine bleed, cabin temperatures, IRS alignment, etc. Our blind pilots cannot program an FMC, and our "weekend" pilots show little or no interest in doing so. As a result we haven't bothered interfacing expensive third party jetliners. However, flight management is critically important. The IYP pilot has the option to ask Michelle to handle all of the flight management functions involved in takeoff, climb out, approach and auto-landing. For example, during climb-out, based upon the engine's N1 readings, fuel weight, payload, outside temperature, air density, Mach speed, etc., Michelle automatically optimizes the indicated air speed (KIAS) and vertical rate of climb. And, yes, Michelle can perform a visual approach and auto-landing with most IYP interfaced aircraft.
To make an even more realistic environment for the "passengers", Michelle issues flight-following announcements letting them know what terrain they are flying over and what they might be able to see on either side of the aircraft.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of a project?
Even though it's not in vogue and younger developers probably use PERT programs, I use a white board to lay out a Critical Path (CPM). I plot the whole project from start to finish and add all the "what ifs" to the maximum extent possible. Only when I am satisfied with the plan do I then start writing code (i.e. plan the work, work the plan).
What do you consider your best or most popular work?
What are some of the more unique or special aspects of what you create?
Same answer to both. The most unique aspect of It's Your Plane is that, although it was initially created to be flown by sighted simmer pilots, I subsequently added extensive code enabling it to be also flown and enjoyed by blind and visually impaired people (BVI), (and, incidentally, people with disabilities that prevent them from using their hands). It is our opinion there are tens of thousands of BVI people who could significantly enhance their lives by getting involved with voice controlled flight simulation as an exciting hobby that helps them to experience as closely as possible the thrill of flying.
What have been your favorite projects?
My question - Is your question related just to flight simulation or to major projects that I have accomplished over my life?
What software packages and tools do you use to develop?
I began using Assembly code in 1964 and transitioned to Visual Basic.net in the mid-nineties. But I also write ASP.net, Java script, etc.
Who would you consider to be your mentors or inspiration in the development world, if you have any?
This goes back to my misspent youth in which my math teacher in Montreal, Professor Paquette, tutored me in his free time and in a matter of five months awoke in me the skills and determination that enabled me to pass the college entrance exam for the graduate math program. He was without question the most influential person in my life and taught me that I could do anything I put my mind to. He also created my never-ending interest in mathematics.
Do you develop payware/freeware or both and why?
Both. The sales of IYP software and the generous donations we routinely receive, basically covers our operating costs. Thus, I am a retired person operating a "non-profit" organization.