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Op-Ed - The New Era Of Flight Simulation


The New Era of Flight Simulation - My Essay To The Older Generation

By Willy Canuck

As a 'simmer' who has been following 'serious' flight simulation for the better part of 25 years, I would count myself among those who consider themselves seasoned in the role of a flight simulation pilot. I do not claim to be any smarter or experienced than anyone else who enjoys flight simulation, regardless of age - rather, I now see that there is more to learn about this fantastic hobby than I ever realised - and that learning can come from the most unexpected or unlikely of sources. However, that opportunity will be brief and we may miss it if we don't act now.


A bit of history about myself; I am Canadian, born-and-bred, yet I have called Scotland home for the last 16 years. My journey with flight simulation as a 'serious' hobby hails back to my tentative first steps as a novice pilot with Canadian Virtual Airlines. It was with CVA that I learned some key lessons such as 'slow flight' and fuel calculation, approach patterns and flight management. It was then, with the fantastic support of the older Members, that I took my first journey in an online controlled network and began my adventures as one of the 'Big Boys'. It was a furious decade when I first joined CVA; I became a recognized sim pilot; I met a great bunch of guys (in real life) who enjoyed plane-spotting and flying GA; I participated in two charity flight events on two different continents; and I even assisted in the founding of a new Radio Station: SkyBlueRadio.


And then it all came to a rather abrupt halt...


After a critical breakage on my PC and the arrival of my first child, my adventures as a flight simulator pilot were put on hold for other priorities. Little by little, I sold off all of my accessories, software and other bits and pieces (DVDs, books, etc.). I suddenly didn't have the time or the space to indulge my hobby. It's a shame as well, because I miss much of what passed on to others - especially my flight yoke and pedals - but this is what life is all about. Through the years, I've never lost complete touch and always tried to stay apprised of the flight simulation community, but my participation was extremely limited and I lost touch with many things and many great friends. However, it's fair to say that with the launch of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, my interest returned quite spectacularly and I am writing to you now from my new Flightsim PC, sitting beside an interim Flight Stick (TM 16000) as Skyblue's newest (yet one of its oldest) Presenters.


It's great to be back in the fold. I've reached out to so many old friends in the last two months and it's been like coming home. Getting back behind the stick has been an absolute joy as well. Now that my kids are a bit older, they are joining me in my hobby and starting their own journey in flight simulation. Since returning, however, I am both encouraged and a bit disappointed in what the community has become. I see many new, fresh faces - eager to learn. But I also see many older, seasoned vets like me who seem a bit bitter and impatient. I can understand that bitterness to some extent - age makes you grumpy. It's a shame, because the community was so fresh and welcoming when I first started out all those years ago. I'd hate to think that all of us experienced sim pilots, who benefited from the helpful disposition of our elders years ago, are unable (on the whole) to lend our own time to help out the new generation who are now reaching out to us looking for advice and assistance. This NEEDS TO CHANGE!


This new generation has never been more different than generations before. I think of them as 'The YouTube' generation because they have grown up in a world with on-demand streaming video and real-time social media interaction. I think it's fair to say, in my humble opinion, that the way the new generation thinks, communicates and learns is completely different from those of us who first grabbed the yoke 20+ years ago. Yet here they are; Interested, willing and able. We have a fantastic opportunity to welcome this new influx of simmers yet (I think) we are blowing that opportunity in spectacular fashion.


So many of you are thinking 'What's your point, Willy?'


OK - I'll tell you. I would like to challenge all of your older guys (and gals) to think and act upon the following points:


  • Don't rely on the tried-and-true web forum. We need to embrace the new methods of social communication. Surprisingly, I'm not talking about Facebook (my daughter recently informed me that Facebook is 'Old') - nope, in fact I'm talking about Instagram, Youtube, Twitch and Discord. The latter is the most important because this is how most of the young generation communicate and gather nowadays. If your community/site/VA/other doesn't have a Discord channel (at the very least), get one and get a young person to show you how to use it! If you value your local community, it is vital that you stay relevant otherwise we are all at risk of fading away as the younger generation build communities around themselves using the technologies they prefer; this would be a shame - both for us and for them. There is so much knowledge we can offer if only we can adapt to the changing world to share it.
  • Lighten up! If you find yourself impatient or grouchy in the face of 'silly' questions, cast yourself back to your life as a young simmer and remember the experienced pilots that helped you. Yes, we expect a certain level of self-study, but this can only be achieved by getting our new simmers through the first set of hurdles.
  • Adapt! It's not enough to deploy new social comms, you need to learn to use it and embrace it. If nothing else, get yourself a Discord account (it's free) - you might be surprised at how great it is.
  • Listen as much as you talk. I have recently discovered that much of the younger generation are very knowledgeable. They don't want to be 'taught' - they want to engage (if you let them) - and this can only be achieved by providing them with a level playing field built on respect and bi-directional communication. You may find that you don't know everything after all! Learning can come from any source and any direction...and it's fun! There is a certain satisfaction to being schooled by a younger person for me and it is rewarding for that younger person as well to know that they add value.
  • Look for Leaders. As we get older, for some of us priorities have changed and we simply don't have the time or energy to do as much as we used to. If you come across a rising star in the ranks of your VA or local community, offer them opportunities to manage sites, events, comms and anything else that might add value. These younger stars will be the key to your ongoing recruitment and success.
  • Encourage new female members. So important!! This is a huge growth area for us and we must ensure that our community provides a safe, welcoming environment for Women that is free from harassment and misogyny. Ensure that your local community has a robust policy that is rigorously enforced.
  • Finally, Join in! If the younger guys and gals are setting up an event, be a part of it! Be open to new ideas and adventures, even if it's not the 'tried-and-true' flying events that you're used to. Don't hide in your old routines! If we are going to be a part of the community, we need to be there for the younger folks as much as we expect them to be there for us.

I apologize in advance if some of you reading this are thinking 'I'm already doing all of this...' - that's fantastic if you are....but I know this isn't the case across the board and I'm truly eager about this brief opportunity to truly expand our precious simulation community into a new era. Forgive my enthusiasm!


Happy to share in the discussion here but would also be excited to hear from anyone who might want to share their thoughts on my show. If you think I'm right, wrong or WAY OFF BASE! Tell me!! You can leave me a voice message at https://www.speakpipe.com/willycanuck. Any constructive and polite comments will make it to air on one of my shows and may even be debated in my upcoming Panel discussion with Dom Smith from FlightSim.Com (end of shameless self-promotion).


Looking forward to your comments here as well.


Kindest Regards,
Willy Canuck
Sky Blue Radio skyblueradio.com

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