Welcome to Developer Month 2019. Between April 8th and May 8th 2019, we will feature a variety of developers, publishers, community personalities and more who will tell us their story. From written interviews and blog posts to video interviews and more, we have curated a range of interesting content to maybe even inspire you to be one of these developers in future years. Please enjoy Developer Month 2019 as much as we enjoyed putting it together for you.
We couldn’t have put together Developer Month without the support of all the developers & publishers involved. Also, huge thanks to Thrustmaster for their assistance in sponsoring Developer Month.
April 29th: POSCON
POSCON is a brand new virtual online network for users to communicate and fly on. We sat down with Andrew Heath to discuss why he wanted to create a new network, what the challenges are and where he sees the future of online networks going forward.
What can you tell us a little abit about yourself, the team and what you do part of that team?
My name is Andrew Heath and I am a career pilot at American Airlines. I currently fly the Boeing 757/767, but I am also certified on the Embraer 190, Embraer 145, and Beech 1900D. I am the owner, founder, and product manager of the Positive Control Network (aka POSCON). While the POSCON team consists mainly of software developers from around the world, we also have many other experts that assist us in training development and beta testing including two other major airline pilots, a fully certified FAA air traffic controller, and a Boeing engineer.
What was the inspiration for wanting to make a virtual online network?
In the late 1990s, I was a member of the very first online flight simulation network: SATCO. Being a member of that community was the spark that ignited, and subsequently fueled my real-world flying career. For the next 20 years, I spent a considerable amount of time either controlling or flying online in my free time. Flight simulation became not only a tool for enhancing my training, but also for relieving stress as I advanced in my real-world aviation career. Around 6 years ago, it started to become evident that there was a need in the online flight simulation community for something new and fresh. It wasn’t until FlightSimCon 2015 though that the decision was made to form a new network; the following year POSCON was incorporated in Delaware.
There’s obviously been comment from the community about ‘why another’ virtual online network. Why will POSCON be different and what can users expect?
To me, the most important takeaway from the 2018 Navigraph survey results was that a majority of flight simulation enthusiasts do not fly online. We looked at those results as empirical evidence that there is, in fact, a huge potential user base outside of the current networks, and the current networks have not successfully figured out a way to appeal to those users. By putting a larger emphasis on training, centralization of the overall platform experience, and automated moderation tools, I am very confident POSCON will appeal to those people that do not like to fly online. Bottom line, there is more than enough room for another network and we intend to offer a fresh perspective to online flight simulation enthusiasts.
Your team has undergone a few changes in the past year. How has feedback impacted your development process?
As in most software development projects, communication and cohesiveness in the entire team is a much larger asset than experience in many cases. Over the past year, we have learned that the most experienced developers do not always make the best developers for POSCON.
POSCON believes that, in a community-driven project such as this, feedback is one of the most important factors in achieving success. To that end, our beta testers and advisors have been integrated directly into parts of the development process for many months now. We also really value the suggestions and feature ideas from users in our forum; so if you are one of those people who I have been conversing with, please keep the ideas coming! We have gone to great lengths to document all of this feedback to ensure that nothing is overlooked.
There are members of your team with real-world flying experience. Some with a PPL and others who captain 767s. How does that help with development?
The benefit of having a wealth of real-world experience on our team is fairly obvious; we can deliver a superior product. What may not be so obvious is the disadvantage: we have to be very careful not to create a network that is so realistic that it prevents the average user from having fun. To mitigate this problem, we approach every design considering the realism and user experience equally. I am very confident that we have a product that any person, who is somewhat serious about this hobby, can enjoy.
What skill and knowledge sets do you have on the team?
We have a diverse mix of ages, nationalities, and experience levels on the POSCON team. We have developers that are just starting their careers and others with decades of enterprise software development experience. We also have a variety of professionals assisting with the administrative side of things.
Flight simulation software is essentially a modding platform and it can be tough to find people with the right kind of experience to build an online network of proprietary systems that hook into this. While we look for the right skill sets, we are also looking for people with the right personality who share our overall vision of what we want this platform to deliver.
Looking back on your development progress, is there anything you would’ve done differently from when you first started?
As you can probably imagine, taking on a project of this scope from the ground up is no small feat. I knew what many of the challenges were when I first started, but there were definitely additional complexities that I didn’t anticipate. We had a lot of failure in our early iterations, but falling down and getting back up will always be part of the development process. In retrospect, I probably should have done more analysis on these setbacks in order to put measures in place sooner to prevent reoccurrence. Earlier enforcement of code reviews, development standards, clear milestones, and centralized documentation would have gone a long way to accelerating progress in those early days. Having said that, we are in a much better place now and have made meaningful progress in a short amount of time.
You last shared information regarding POSCON back during FlightSimExpo 2018. How much progress has been made since? What can you share with us?
In general, there has been a lot of progress made since then. We are excited to talk more about our progress at FSExpo 2019, which is just around the corner, but the one point I am willing to share right now is in regards to our Pilot Client Web User Interface. This is a completely unique concept that can only be found on POSCON. Most networks have multiple pilot clients for the various flight simulator platforms available on the market. While POSCON is no different in that regard, what makes us unique is that we have created a common user interface: one online platform for multiple simulators. For example, if you want to change your radios you can do so by going to a website and changing the frequency there. Everything is synced between your simulator and the website. This is extremely useful for when you want to leave the flight deck, because you will have complete control of your POSCON connection from any device that has an internet connection and a web browser.
If POSCON were looking for people to join the team, or your community, how could someone go about doing it?
As we progress with the network development, there will be more possibilities for people to get involved at various levels
Thank you once again to POSCON for taking part.
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Stay tuned as Developer Month continues tomorrow. Back to video interviews tomorrow with Mir from Flightbeam.