Jenn Kimball and Alex Stephens (A-Pilot) Interview
Conducted by Dominic Smith
When did you start developing for flight simulators and what got you interested in it?
We both started developing X-Plane aircraft in early 2015. We had always wanted to learn how to model aircraft for simulators but didn't get started until we got our noses into X-Plane. With all of the tools readily available, such as Plane-Maker and AC3D, we quickly acquired the basic knowledge of how to make a very simple, animated, flying aircraft. It's a bit of an addiction, because each plane we make gets a little "better" in some way. Our first serious project was Alex's AL-60, which taught us a lot of what we now know.
Could you tell us about the nature of your designs?
Our primary focus is on creating general aviation and light sports aircraft. However, we have also created a few custom designed aircraft such as the GO-XP and AP-120. Put simply, our ultimate goal is creating aircraft which are fun to fly.
What do you consider your best or most popular work?
The Piper Cub series is easily our most popular work. Who doesn't love a Cub? This little aircraft has so much character that we just had to build one. We went all out on this project, and did everything to the best of our ability, so as to make the flight experience as true-to-life as possible. We even flew a real Cub during the project just to make sure!
Fantastic! Have you received any feedback from actual Cub owners regarding your X-Plane model?
Not as yet. But if you're a real Cub owner and have X-Plane installed, we would love to hear from you!
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of a project?
Haha...fine tuning the 3D model, so as to be as accurate as possible! It's no exaggeration when I say this is really tedious (but has to be done)! For custom designs, the biggest challenge (and perhaps the most fun) is making sure the designs are at least somewhat plausible if they were real.
What have been your favorite projects so far?
You know Dom, we have quite a sense of humor, so we'd have to say the "River Rat"! This was Alex's idea for a flying fishing boat, and has to be, without doubt the most amusing and entertaining project done to date! He even installed a fish finder and a radio which, when clicked, plays a motivating tune while you fly around. If this wasn't enough, the 'soda can' in the cup holder oozes green slime during turbulence! On a more serious note, getting the floats and tundras on the Super Cub was a real blast, especially the test flying portions of development. I think it's fair to say that each project in its own way, is an adventure.
Green slime? Are you sure it's drinkable?
Well, er, yes... we haven't personally experienced any side effects, but a word of caution: it's mighty addictive!
When creating your designs, what software packages and tools do you use to develop?
For our designs, we use AC3D, Gimp, and Plane-maker. We also use some X-Plane specific plug-ins with AC3D.