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Review

FlightSimCon 2017: The FSElite Review

06 Aug 2017 00:00z

FlightSimCon 2017: The FSElite ReviewLast year when FSElite started, I gave a lot of feedback on how FlightSimCon 2016 was covered. In summary: I wasn’t impressed. News sites, developers and publishers all fell short of really informing the community outside of the convention about what was going on with their products. It left a pretty bitter taste in my mouth and I wanted to do something more. As a result, the FSElite team was in full force at the conference this year in Bradley. There’s plenty of lessons we’ve learned about covering future conferences, but feel we made a decent effort so far. We’re still uploading some of our video interviews, and I’m still writing up some impression articles. During the conference, we did our best at live blogging – though there are some lessons learned here for us – and as soon as we saw some breaking news, we posted it within minutes. Our Level-D 757 article was a great example. More importantly, however, allow me to share my thoughts on whether the 7500 mile round trip was worth it.

Let’s start with the pre-communication of the event itself. For months, the conference organisers did a great job at teasing information about the event: what to expect, announcing new exhibitors and more. All of this was done to hype up the event and build interest – all of which it did well. The more developers committed to the event, the more the community committed as well. Of course, it’s not just the developers, it is also the cockpit builders, the virtual ATC communities and more that all help to make FlightSimCon feel more than just a place for developers to promote their products.

The team at FlightSimCon also did a grand job at providing detailed information about what to expect at the event – which mostly came from the official app, Whova. When we first tried the app, it was obvious why Whova would be used during the conference. It opened up the possibility of easily conversing with people attending the event, setting up quizzes and games, and even allowed you to scan the hundreds of business cards you undoubtedly picked up. It’s a super easy app that kept everyone up to date with the happenings and a great way to continue that conversation post-FlightSimCon. I hope they will continue to use Whova in the future, and that other developers start to utilise it more.

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If you don’t know already, this year’s event took place at the Sheraton Hotel directly next to Bradley Airport in Hartford, Connecticut. Whilst I can’t comment on whether Connecticut is the most ideal place for a worldwide community, the location of the event in the hotel was excellent. It was clear that the hotel was prepared for large scale events like these, as there were always plenty of staff on hand to help out. As well, there were various break out rooms and space to cater to all of the attendees and exhibitors. The hotel itself had plenty of amenities, was clean and friendly, and because you were an attendee to the event, there was even a sweet discount on the nightly rate . Some people were even lucky enough to be placed on the top floor, which entitled them access to the lounge – which had unlimited soft drinks and small nibble food throughout the day. I, sadly, wasn’t one of them – but Jordan was! Speaking of food, although outside the control of the organisers of FlightSimCon, the buffet selection put on by the hotel was poor. With no other food choices in the area, it was the buffet or nothing – and the buffet wasn’t cheap!

Before I continue, I want to make it clear that I had no expectations walking into the conference. There had been certainly a lot of build up to the event, with many key developers confirming an appearance. As a reporter, this was going to be an exciting, but also busy weekend.

FlightSimCon 2017: The FSElite ReviewAs I walked into the massive auditorium on Saturday morning, it was full of excited flight sim enthusiast all geared up for a weekend of learning, announcements, socialising and more. We took our seats, and Evan from FlightSimCon did some housekeeping, went through a couple of quick, of fun competitions, and got everyone thrilled for a great weekend. He did a great job, was amazingly confident and it was clear that all the planning, sleepless nights, and organisation were all for that. There was loads of passion and this set up the conference for a great start. As he left the stage, he gave way for developers to talk openly about their upcoming products in a quick fire 5-minute presentation. The likes of HiFi Simulations, FSFX Packages, and Laminar Research were all scheduled to appear and I was ready to share the details of their announcements. After all, this was the ‘product announcement forum.’

To my surprise, I left feeling quite disappointed, whilst at the same time learning that this was also an opportunity for people to specifically learn about new products – less so of product announcements, per se. I was disappointed, because outside a few announcements from HiFi Simulations and a new sim from FlyInside (more on that later in this article), there was very little else. Some iPad flight sim, a recap on what X-Plane 11, is and the opportunity to watch a ChasePlane trailer twice with some commentary from Keven. Don’t get me wrong – for a lot of people in that room, this was brand new information. Even more surprising was seeing the response of people in the room who have never used an external camera system for their simulator (even Keven was surprised – and he could see the dollar signs!). This is when it made me realise that there’s still a huge audience of people out there who don’t read flight simulator websites like FSElite, Avsim or FlightSim.com.

FlightSimCon 2017: The FSElite ReviewThe team at FlightSimCon did a good job at providing the platform for these developers, but they have a lot of work to do on product announcements and using this time effectively to build up the hype. Next year, I want to see more developers take this opportunity to showcase their products for the community. Take FlightOne for example: nobody knew the 757 was going to make an appearance, yet it just happened to be there. They could have used this time to show the aircraft, talk about the features and really build the hype up. FSFX and TFDi could have done a joint announcement with regards to their 717 Immersion package, and iBlueYonder could’ve sent the roof flying if they had some time during the product announcement forum with their products. For me, this is what this time should be.

Speaking of TFDi, despite my comments above, I felt they had an incredible show. From the fact that they accidentally used a bright red table cloth for their table, to the live product stream on the 717 – everything they did promoted their company effectively whilst getting simmers hyped up. The 717 has been out for a while, yet they had some of the biggest attendance of all the stands. They announced new improvements to their product and had a team of people selling their aircraft to the public. They really impressed me throughout and some developers could learn from their great PR.

Of course, FlightSimCon is about more than just revealing products – it’s a time for the community to get together. In my opinion, the hotel setting was perfect for this. The ability to chill in the lobby or chat whilst having a quick break made the whole event a huge social gathering for people who shared the same passion. Whether you were a developer, a publisher or a community member – everyone was welcome to talk to everyone. Old or young, male or female; everyone was welcome. The atmosphere was fantastic throughout the event. Jordan and I met so many kind people, so many thought provoking and passionate enthusiasts, and even had fans come up to us commenting on how much they enjoy the site. There was late night drinking, socialising and plenty of laughs – so if you attend next year, be sure to stay the night in a local hotel. The social element is worth the hotel cost alone.

FlightSimCon is also extremely educational, and the organisers ensured that learning themes were different for each day. Day one was centered around simming. There were several conferences all featured on the different elements of simming. Austin and his team (Laminar Research) showed their blood, sweat and tears via the form of new features and elements for X-Plane 11. Later in the day, the X-Plane team was joined by other heavyweights Dovetail Games and Prepar3D’s developer, Lockheed Martin.

During the most anticipated panel discussion of the conference – seriously, the room was chock full) I did feel the questions asked weren’t particularly strong. What I mean by that is that most questions were things of fairly common knowledge in the community. I also detected a hint of bias against Dovetail Games, who were certainly made to sweat a bit. I felt most sorry for the Lockheed Martin representative who sat at the end pretty much saying “yeah, it’s already in P3D V4”. Questions were delivered through the Whova app, which made things quite fast paced, but I felt it was more interesting when the audience were asking the questions directly. That way, someone in the background wasn’t choosing the questions to be asked to the panel. The panel had the opportunity to really quiz these developers who are so important to the future of our platforms, but the most interesting answer came from Austin who very frankly said he “didn’t care” what people thought about X-Plane. The room chuckled and the attention was quickly back on the Dovetail guys – who by this point desperately needed a towel.

Other panel events during the day included the subjects of cockpit building, freeware development and virtual reality. All of them offered something different and each were well advertised and informed by the event organisers.

Sunday was more focused on real life – a nice contrast to day one. But at the same time, it complimented the conference beautifully. With some incredibly talented people, it was a day of learning and inspiration. Our day was full of interviews on the Sunday which prevented us from attending most panels, but the feedback from the attendees was that each one provided a fresh insight into their respected discussions. If you wanted to learn about PFPX and flight planning, or wanted to hear how a real world pilot used the sim to help him learn the tricks of the trade, then FlightSimCon was the place to be. I hope future events do the same thing, as if the whole weekend was purely focused on the sim, it would turn dull quickly. People love knowing how they can apply what they do in the sim into real world examples.

FlightSimCon 2017: The FSElite Review
OMGEDSON [The Sky Lounge TV] and Novawing24 [Youtuber]
Despite the air conditioning breaking towards the end of the day on Sunday, spirits were still high. The VATSIM guys were still controlling like crazy, people were jumping in and out of a real Cessna cockpit, and we were just starting to recover from our late night partying with the developers. We handed out plenty of discount codes to conference goers and A2A’s Scott inspired young future pilots by offering the little ones a few free copies of his excellent planes. This is the flight sim community at its best.

Exhibitors were packing up and the floor was slowly starting to clear out. People left with a smile and a goodie bag full of flight sim merchandise (including our cool beer mats). The final Whova announcement came through, stating the end was nigh, and for people to attend the conference hall for one final speech. It marked the close of one of the most exciting weekends of the flight sim calendar, but people craved more and more. Sadly, PCs had to be packed up, flights had to be caught and hotel rooms needed to be checked out of.

Evan, Tom and the rest of the team provided non-stop support. From excellent pre-conference details to finding a set of batteries to help us, no job was too big for them. They were fantastic throughout and always on hand to assist. The whole weekend ran smoothly from an attendee point of view.

It certainly is a long trip, and the entrance fee is one of the highest for any flight sim conference. If you do attend next year – and provided it’s still a two-day event – be sure to come for both. One day simply won’t give you the full experience that is FlightSimCon. Each year the event grows bigger and bigger – meaning more and more exhibitors will attend. This was their biggest year yet, and without a doubt, one of the biggest success stories our community has seen for a long time.

FlightSimCon 2017 was an event worth waiting for. As the event grows in popularity, they are only going to get better. Hopefully lessons will continue to be learned and we’ll continue to see the event grow into large scale event. From the expert organisation, to the range of things to see and do, FlightSimCon is a worthwhile trip. It can work out to be expensive, so try and combine it with a few days in the area, but the experience is one you won’t forget. We look forward to seeing you at FlightSimCon 2018.

And that’s a wrap! Until next year.

In This Article

Content Director
Calum has been an avid fan of Flight Sim since the release of FS2000 and has developed his love for aviation ever since.
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