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Interview: Hoot Gibson


Hoot Gibson X-Plane Developer Interview

Conducted by Dominic Smith












As with everything, there is always a beginning; Hoot, when did you start developing for X-Plane and what got you interested in it?


I've always loved aviation. When I was a child my dad and I attended many airshows - it brings back some awesome memories for me! - and I continue to take my kids too. Years ago I tried FlightGear but wasn't happy with its design. Then quite by chance, I noticed X-Plane 9 on the shelf at Best Buy. Well, I grabbed it and have never looked back! So I have been developing for X-Plane since 2008. Planemaker was absolutely amazing back then and it still is.










Could you tell us a little bit about your designs?


Right now I seem to be stuck on Mil helicopters - don't worry, I'll run them into the ground with every iteration and design change. After the upcoming Mi-24 Hind, I'm wanting to try something different; maybe Kamov or some one-timers like the XH-51 by Lockheed, or the AH-56 Cheyenne.


Hoot, what do you find to be the most challenging aspect of a project?


The most challenging aspect, for me, is the 3D .obj animations. X-Plane and Blender have a hard time communicating with each other when it comes to animations so getting them on the same page can sometimes be difficult.


You've designed many helicopter already, each one being special, but do you have a favorite?


I would say the Mi-8 Terminator is my favorite. However, I do wish Laminar Research would add more realism to combat.










Helicopters just don't seem to be as popular in the simulator world as their winged cousins. Why do you think that is, Hoot?


In my opinion, helicopters are harder to fly and that makes them less appealing in the simulator world. The key to flying them is being smooth, with small control inputs, but it still takes a long time for one to feel comfortable with flying a helicopter. As with everything, practice makes perfect!


I couldn't agree with you more, Hoot! Is it possible to control a helicopter with a basic controller, or is more specialised equipment needed?


Sure! You can use anything as long as you practice enough. I have a Saitek ST-290 pro joystick but I rarely use. I prefer keyboard and mouse flying, it's just how I roll...or pitch...or yaw.










Hoot, what is it about X-Plane which makes it so accessible?


Literally ANYONE can create a flyable aircraft using X-Plane and its corresponding Plane-Maker program. I think Laminar Research did it this way on purpose - made it easy for the worldwide community to dive into the inner workings of X-Plane - to encourage people to design, innovate, create and bring to life real world airports, aircraft, vehicles and everything in between.


During your time as a developer, is there anybody who you would consider to be a mentor or a source of inspiration?


The majority of the time I have spent developing was concentrated on making sure the helicopter was as close to reality as possible. Pavel (ppt), a Mil Mi-171 pilot, has helped me a lot with translations, images, and real-world flight parameters.


Hoot, do you work alone on your projects or do you work with other people?


I do work alone but I also receive feedback from many of the enthusiasts at www.x-plane.org. I am especially grateful to Brett Sumpter who has advised me on my projects. Being a part of the X-Plane community makes developing sometimes seem like a group effort and there is always someone online to answer a question or give feedback.











Do you have any stick time in helicopters?


I have only been a passenger in quite a few helicopters but one day I hope to obtain a pilot's license.


Have you had any memorable flights in real life?


Yes, taking my beautiful wife and two sons for a ride over the beach in a Robinson R44, provided by Huffman Helicopters, was a flight I will always remember.


I expect that was a wonderful experience for your family too! Apart from X-Plane, are there any other simulators you use?


I have tried a few of them: FlightGear, FSX, DCS BlackShark, and Clearview RC sim; however, X-Plane 9 and now X-Plane 10 is my preferred simulator.











Hoot, is there a particular helicopter you would love to model and if so why?


As a child, I watched a lot of Vietnam War movies so modeling an HH-3 Jolly Green Giant would be great. It is an icon and not many models of them exist so I would love to develop one.


How do you see the future of simulation?


With all the technical innovations like TrackIR and Occulus Rift becoming more readily available, ultra-realistic flight simulation will probably continue to gain popularity and become more useful in flight programs around the world.



What can the community (members) do to aid developers with their projects?


The community members already help developers a lot by answering questions and providing a great deal of feedback. I always wish I had more time to communicate with everyone on the X-Plane forums but it is sometimes hard to balance family, a full-time job, and my obsession with helicopters.










Hoot, I have to ask you this...Airwolf or Blue Thunder?


Oh wow, Blue Thunder was great but Airwolf was awesome! In my opinion, Airwolf was the superior aircraft; it was faster and had more fire power. That would definitely be an awesome helicopter to fly.


I'm with you on that one. Airwolf was fantastic! Do you have tips for those readers tempted by their first simulated helicopter flight?


Don't give up! Keep at it, you'll crash a lot but it'll get easier the more you fly. Small subtle movements are the key, over compensation is easy but it usually results in landing with the undercarriage pointed up.










And finally, Hoot, what would you like people to know about you and your work?


Basically, that I'm just a regular guy. I'm not a full time developer. My main goal is to provide a model with plenty of detail and a realistic flight simulation. By the end of the year (2016), I hope to release the Mil Mi-24 Hind.


Thank you for taking the time to interview me.


Hoot Gibson

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