When did you start developing for flight simulators and what got you interested in it?
My first simulator was Microsoft FS2002, and I began repainting aircraft as soon as I learned that you could add your own paints and scenery. A bit later I bought FSDS and started on scenery, focusing on RAF Gatow, where I used to go plane-spotting when I was young. With the advent of FS2004 and its inclusion of Gmax, I began my first aircraft project, the Hunting Percival Pembroke, a mid-size, twin-engine communications plane, and a regular visitor to Gatow during the cold war.
Going public with just the basic exterior model brought me in touch with members of the community who immediately contributed a genuine panel (we weren't up to VCs yet) and accurate flight dynamics. I was also contacted by pilots who had flown these planes in real life, a most welcome side-effect that was to be repeated with all subsequent releases.
After the Pembroke came the York, the Lancastrian, and a whole gaggle of Connies. Here is a screen shot of a C-121A Connie that I am particularly fond of.
I believe I did some twenty or thirty variants of the Connie all told, more or less in reverse order, starting out with the experimental Turbo Connie and the model 1649 Starliner. Lufthansa had just bought three of the last remaining Starliner hulks and begun the arduous process of getting one of them back to flying condition. At one point Lufthansa actually asked permission to use the FS2004 model for technical crew training. I believe the reconstituted Starliner is scheduled to have its first flight sometime this year. If all goes well it will be the star of air shows all over the world. People will come just for the sight and sound of this iconic plane, as they do for the Breitling Connie. Incidentally, the sound pack for the Connies was based on original Breitling recordings.
After a good deal of hesitation - I was reluctant to abandon FS2004 for what seemed a flaky successor - I finally did the step and migrated over to the dark side of FSX. First I did a C-47, the military variant of the DC-3, learning what I could from the source code of the DC-3 that Microsoft's ACES team had made available. This was followed by the Basler and Braddick DC-3 turboprop variants, and more recently the C-117 Super DC-3, and the C-47 V2. At present, I am on to something completely different, even though in a sense it is just more of the same (see below).
Designing aircraft for a flight simulator was a major change from making plastic models, which I often failed to finish. Designing and painting with keyboard and mouse is a much cleaner exercise than working on a workbench cluttered with bits of wood and plastic. It's also healthier, as you don't get to inhale any dust and paint fumes. Then again, CAD comes with health hazards of its own - it is very addictive and not really good for your eyes.
What do you consider your best or most popular work?
That has to be the C-47 V2, for which we bagged a freeware of the year award, but in terms of download stats the Connies were the most popular, easily going into the ten thousands range. The thread at Sim Outhouse that advertised the coming of the C-47 V2 soon had 50K clicks, and much added interest has been created by Jan Visser's announcement of an entirely new "VVC" (virtual vintage cockpit) for it. Have a look at the work-in-progress pictures in the current sticky at Sim Outhouse. Jan is a genius (you should interview him!), you haven't seen the likes of such a VC before.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of a project?
Creating a 3D model from photos and scale plans (often incorrect) is a lot of work but also plain fun most of the time. Releasing and troubleshooting generally is a hassle.