• Interview With Robert Richardson

    When did you start developing for flight simulator?

    Being a long time fan of the AlphaSim models (now Virtavia) I became very impatient for an FSX upgrade to their superb De Havilland Sea Venom so I thought I would have a shot at it myself. After a torturous learning curve and a couple of visits to the Duxford Air Museum for some photos and as much information as I could gather, I managed to produce something that looked a bit, to me anyway, like the aircraft I was after. That was about three years ago.

    Tell us the nature of your desingns and what you do

    I am of a "certain age" and remember vividly as a schoolboy being taken for my first visit to the Farnborough Air Show; long before it became an international event. In those days, every year you would see a whole range of new, weird and wonderful aircraft designs, most of which have now long been forgotten. It is inevitable that the influences for my flight sim models should come from my memories of those old British aircraft.

    Living, as I do in the UK, we are blessed with a great many aircraft museums (quite a few of these within driving distance of my home) full of these old aircraft, and I intend spending my retirement visiting as many of them as possible, looking for inspiration for the next model.

    What do you consider your best or most popular work?

    I suppose my first completed model will always have a special place in my heart, mainly because of all the technical and artistic hurdles; the questions on the forums asking for help; coming to grips with all the software involved and then unravelling the gobbledegook that is xml coding.

    Just to arrive at a functioning and flyable model must be an achievement in itself, but having said that I think my best work was on the Fairy Gannet AEW 3, modelled on the example residing at the Newark Air Museum. This aircraft was modified for service in the Falklands conflict but in the event was never used for that purpose. The staff there, as always, were most helpful with photographs and information.


    If ever you are in the Newark area, a visit to this wonderland of old aircraft is an absolute must. The homemade fruitcake available in the teashop is some of the best in middle England and worth a visit for that alone!

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

    The insane complexity of aircraft, even those of the era I'm interested in, is something that always astonishes me, and to capture even a small percentage of that complexity and turn it into a functioning and realistic computer model is only ever going to be achievable by the top guys. In my case I have to consider what I am capable of and how much I can leave out and still maintain a modicum of realism.

    Getting the information to build a virtual cockpit will inevitably be somewhat frustrating. Though most museums are willing to let me have a look at the cockpit, it is frequently the case that anything useful has been robbed from the aircraft or the canopy has been closed for so long that it is stuck fast! A lot of guesswork is involved at this point.

    What software packages and tools do you use?

    When it comes to computers and software I'm a complete junkie! Amazon just loves me, they are my best friends...well according to them that is.

    Like most people who have a go at flight sim models, I started off using Gmax but then discovered FSDS Pro. That is when things really came to life for me because in my mind, FSDS Pro is a beautiful, intuitive program ideal for creating those fine lines and curves. It is only when you reach the final stages of a project that its shortcomings become evident, at which point "FSDSxTweak" comes to the rescue.

    PaintShop Pro X6 accomplishes everything needed for my purposes at a price that won't break the bank as it's easy and a real pleasure to use. DXTBmp by Martin Wright is one of those small freeware programs I just couldn't live without, as amongst other things, it converts any file type into any other type. Gimp 2.8 is quite a nice program and open source. I like the airbrush tool and I also use it for bump maps. Aircraft Airfile Manager is a must, as is "ShowMarkers".

    I use FS Sound Studio for, wait for it, sound files. I'm using the latest P3D SDK and compiling into Prepar3D, then copying the model back into FSX. I do this because, since ORBX brought out their England and Wales packages I have returned to using FSX as my sim of choice, only using P3D for developing. This might seem like a strange way of working but I'm sticking with P3D to develop with the future in mind. I have it installed with no add-ons for quick loading.


    I mustn't forget to mention my trusty Fuji HS20 for the masses of aircraft photos I take. Believe me when I say "I'm no photographer" but this camera just has to be pointing in the general direction of a subject to capture an image that's usually recognisable.

    1. dstarda's Avatar
      dstarda -
      Nice work, and thank you. The Sea Venom has been a delight.

    1. TseTse's Avatar
      TseTse -
      I absolutely enjoyed the interview - great narration and subtle classic British humour in the answers!

      I had great fun reading the part about the Garuda flight. Although I am glad to report that now Garuda has greatly (I mean, very greatly) improved on their safety and service qualities (and their ban from EU airspace was lifted a few years ago), essentially all other Indonesian carriers (with the exception of Air Asia) still fly their aircraft in such condition as you've described of the GIA 747. One of my experiences was on a Lion Air MD-90 from Denpasar, Bali to Jayapura, Papua and the airplane was maintained so horribly that when somebody sat down on his seat, the food tray behind his seat plopped down and the vibrations during engine start made everyone hard to breathe. There were spiders and other undiscovered species inhabiting in the windows (how they'd survive I have no idea) and to top it off, the landing was hard.

      Like Richardson, I too enjoy flying classic British aircraft from the mid-20th century as these aircraft have incredibly distinctive features that separate them from all other aircraft from other parts of the world from that era.
    1. ssowry's Avatar
      ssowry -
      Mr. Richardsons aircraft are what keeps flight simmers flying and flight simulation itself alive. There are a lot of folks out there that can't afford to buy every payware aircraft that comes out for FS. Especially if their putting all of their "Benjamins" into a FS rig. It's modelers like Mr. Richardson who present excellent freeware (but payware quality) to us folks out here who are looking for various kinds of airframes to operate without spending what little money we have. I salute you Mr. Richardson.......Keep Up the Excellent Work!!!!!
    1. coronado990's Avatar
      coronado990 -
      I just want to say a big thank you to you Robert for all your hard work and great models.
      I think you use self deprecating statements too easily, it's part of being British I suppose. However I will say you are easily one of my favourite model makers, together with the great Tim Conrad as you mentioned in your interview, as well as the other legends: Erick Cantu, Rick Piper, David Maltby, and the like.
      I remember writing an email to you a couple of years back, asking if you had any plans to make any fsx native British airliners, although you had other priorities you took the time to respond. This speaks volumes of your character.
      Keep up the great work Robert. I am waiting for your next model with anticipation.
    1. robcarrich's Avatar
      robcarrich -
      Thank you all very much for your kind comments.
      I do realize that Garuda Indonesia is now one of the worlds leading airlines with a fleet of up to date aircraft and has a safety record as good as anybody.
      My apologies for insinuating that my experience would be commonplace to-day, it most certainly would not be!
      The flight I was referring to took place about 14 years ago!
    1. mesis's Avatar
      mesis -
      Is great artist and perfect designer.
      Jose Curado-Brasil
    1. peterwatkins2's Avatar
      peterwatkins2 -
      Well done, Rob - great interview. It is a real pleasure to work with painting your models. The Meteors are real classics (and an F4 would be nice!). Then you could take the F8, add the F4 tail and the NF11 cockpit and give us a FSX T7! Just kidding Rob, anything you make is fine by me. Now, about the Beagle Pup 150 ......
      Peter Watkins
    1. DominicS's Avatar
      DominicS -
      Great interview Robert!! Many thanks for all your wonderful work!

      Wonderful stuff!!

    1. graaant's Avatar
      graaant -
      Marvellous work on a classic series of aircraft (my personal favourite: the F20 Sea Vampire).

      Thanks much, Robert, for many hours' pleasure.

    1. peterlane's Avatar
      peterlane -
      Hi Rob,

      Just found this post on Flightsim.com and had a read. I have also just had a look at your excellent web site, I shall be visiting a lot more now as it looks like you have some great models for download. I am also a big fan of the old classics and will certainly be giving the Vampire & Hornet a spin later.
      Well done
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