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Interview: Anthony Lynch


Interview With Anthony Lynch - Ant's Airplanes
















When did you start developing for flight simulators and what got you interested in it?


The first flight simulator I bought was FS2004 in 2006. FSX had just been released but my computer at the time stood no chance of running FSX so I bought FS2004 instead. I started messing about with scenery around 2007 and the first major scenery project I released was Lady Elliot Island for FS2004. Lady Elliot is a small island off the Queensland coast towards the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef with the most interesting feature being the grass runway that runs right down the middle of the island. The scenery I made was extremely simple and only used generic buildings. I have since gone on to remake it twice, once with better models for FS2004, and then again with photo-real ground textures for FSX.


Most of my early work involved creating airports for FS2004 and I have made over 30 of these. They were all located within Australia (as that is where I live) and eventually made their way into the famous VOZ freeware project. After getting a better computer I was able to install FSX and converted most of my FS2004 airports into FSX ones releasing them under the title Ants Aussie Airports (who doesn't absolutely adore alliteration?)














After a while I started to tire of doing airports and thought I might try to make an aircraft as a new challenge. My first release was the freeware Tiger Moth in February 2010. I foolishly thought at the time that it was a simple little aircraft so it would be easy to do. Little did I realise that all the ribs in the wings made things a bit more complicated. And of course there were two wings which doubled the complexity.


My first payware aircraft was the Sierra Light Sport Aircraft. I made this because it was a nice looking little plane and there weren't too many LSA aircraft for FSX at the time. The next aircraft was the Drifter Ultralight. I made this aircraft after making the scenery for Boonah airport. Boonah was the original home of Austflight who made their own version of the Drifter.


The next aircraft was the Eaglet LSA. After making the Sierra I had received quite a lot of requests to do the Eaglet as many flight simmers were learning to fly on this aircraft. I then released a fictional single seater jet aircraft as freeware because I thought it would be a fun thing to do.














The last two aircraft were the Trojan T-28D (a 1950's era military trainer) and the T-28B/C. I made the T-28D as there is a local air show on each year at Evan's Head and the T-28D "huff'n'puff" always makes an appearance at the show and it certainly is an impressive looking and sounding aircraft in real life.


Here is a video of the T-28 at Evan's Head:





What do you consider your best or most popular work?


Perhaps the most popular work is the first aircraft I made, which was the Tiger Moth. It was probably popular because it was freeware and was such a well known aircraft. The best work should always be the last one. With each new project you extend your knowledge so the last project will always be a culmination of all that knowledge. For example, my last project, the T-28B/C Trojan, has launchable rockets and bombs which came about from learning how to program SimConnect gauges.














What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of a project?


Flight dynamics. This is still very much a black art to me. There is very little documentation on how the parameters in the FSX .air files interact, so most of the time it is a case of making a small change, noting how it affects the flight dynamics and repeating. It can be quite a tedious and frustrating business as the parameters in the .air files all interact. It is interesting to read people asking in forums which parameter they need to change to alter the service ceiling or maximum speed or stall speed. There is no single parameter that affects these performance numbers as they are usually a combination of a number of interrelated parameters.


What software packages and tools do you use to develop?


Any developer will have a wide range of programs that they call upon when creating scenery or aircraft. The shear number of programs used can be quite daunting for anyone new to developing. My desktop is filled with shortcuts to all the programs and batch files I use.














The modelling package is the number one program you use. I use Abacus FS Design Studio. It is a simple program to use (although very dated) and is limited in a lot of ways for FSX development. For example, FSDS doesn't really support FSX texture materials nor bone animations. I have had to write a few utilities to get around those limitations. Over the years though, I have become quite accustomed to all its little bugs and quirks.


I have tried a number of times to learn to use Gmax but I can't quite get my head around the way that program works. Everything seems to take twice as long as it should with Gmax. If you are starting out in modelling though you should probably try Gmax first. It is free (which is always nice) and is also an early predecessor of 3DS Max which most developers use. Of course, 3DS Max is ridiculously expensive. If you baulk at the price of some add-ons for FSX then do yourself a favor; don't look up the price of 3DS Max 2014.


I use Corel Paint Shop Pro for creating textures and DXTbmp, Imagetool or DxTex to convert the bitmap files it outputs into the DDS file format that is used by FSX. Photoshop is another good program but again it sure ain't cheap. Any paint program that can handle layers can be used for making FSX textures.














Other programs include (but is not limited to):


  • Aircraft Airfile Manager (for editing flight dynamics)
  • Instant Scenery (the best program to add scenery models to FSX)
  • ModelConverterX (for rummaging about in model files)
  • Airport Design Editor (for airport files)
  • SBuilder X (for terrain editing)
  • Resample (for making photoreal scenery)
  • LibraryCreatorXML (for making bgl library files for models)
  • Notepad++ (a great text editor for XML coding)
  • MS Visual C++ 2010 (for creating C gauges)


Most of the above programs are free so anyone can get into starting to make add-ons for FSX without needing to spend a lot of money on expensive programs.














The Team

How many people work with you or your team?


Just me. I have to do everything. It's good in a lot of ways as it means I can maintain complete control of the project from start to finish. It does mean that you have to be a bit of a jack of all trades and you can't hand off the boring bits (e.g. drawing rivets into the textures) to some other team member. I do have a handful of trusty beta testers to help with the final testing stage. You always try to release a bug free project but the huge complexity and number of parts involved in FSX models makes that difficult.



How do you choose your next new design or project?


I get quite a few emails from people suggesting what I should be doing next. It can take me anywhere between 6-12 months to make a single plane so it would take me many years to satisfy everyone's request. I try to make airplanes that no one has done before. I also need to have access to the plane so I can take notes, detailed photographs and record any sounds. The access factor is a big limitation on what aircraft I can make.














Your Thoughts

How do you feel about the future of flight simulation in general?


I think that the flight simulation community has settled down to a constant level at the moment. FSX is over six years old now and with the MS Flight fiasco it seems highly unlikely that we will see a new flight sim from MS anytime soon. It is interesting to see Prepar3D V2 released and I am still looking at that program to see how it is different from FSX and what changes need to be made to my projects to get them working in Prepar3D. I don't think Prepar3D will expand the flight sim community though. The nature of the license agreement (i.e. not for entertainment purposes) for Prepar3D makes it difficult for the introduction of that program to attract new flight simmers though. This will probably lead to a split in the flight sim community.


What are some of the most important things a site or community can do to help the developers?


Become a developer! It is a great shame that freeware seems to have dried up lately. There used to be a very active community with many contributors but those people seem to have either left or stopped making stuff in the last few years. It's strange to see so many posts on forums asking for such and such a plane or for some particular scenery or a repaint. Well, if you want something made why not roll up your sleeves and do it yourself? Start simple by trying a few repaints, then maybe move onto some scenery work. Before you know it you could be making your own airplane.














Many thanks.


Anthony Lynch
Download Anthony Lynch Freeware



Videos Of Ant's Airplanes




































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