Years after the release for Prepar3D, X-Plane users have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of AirHauler 2 from JustFlight. With its release in May of this year, what’s in store for future virtual airline pilots and managers? AirHauler 2 gives you the ability to create your own airline, grow your hangar with purchased aircraft, earn cash (albeit not real) and fly routes you haven’t flown before from the ability of just one programme. I have taken some time to speak to its creator, Duncan ‘Slopey’ Murray, to find out more about AirHauler 2, its origins, new features and what’s to come in the future.
Could you tell me a little about yourself Duncan and your flight simulation origins?
I am based in Aberdeen in the UK, and for the last 25 years or so, I have been the IT Director of a large manpower company, running their software division through a variety of products in different industry sectors. I recently left that company to acquire and run a chemical company which produces a range of innovative pipeline products – quite the career change!
I’ve always been fascinated with aviation, from playing Psion Flight Simulator on the ZX Spectrum, then up through the FS series, FA-18 on the Amiga and onwards through to Falcon 4. I’m a fan of DCS and also of the Elite games by Frontier Developments, which I’ve played virtually every one consistently since 1984.
I wanted to pursue a career in aviation from an early age, but after some dodgy careers advice in my formative years, I ended up with a degree in Electronics with Music from Glasgow and ended up in IT, another early passion of mine. I went over to the infamous Ormond Beach in Florida, to do my PPL in October 2005 and I am now a member of a C172 syndicate with around 200 hours total time to date. I am hoping to spend much more time this year in the skies.
Where did the idea for Air Hauler initially come from?
Ultimately, Air Hauler was and is the game that I have always wanted to play. There were a few add-ons which I had used before, such as JustFlight’s Cargo Pilot and FsPassengers/FSEconomy, but they both left me wanting more. Cargo Pilot had the right philosophy, but I found the lack of maps and flexibility restrictive and from a company management side, the financials made no sense. So, I thought about how I would do it – with maps, routes, proper financials, and an open approach so you could stop en route for fuel and fly multiple jobs at the same time. Once I had a good idea of what I wanted, I realised that I would have to write it myself! AirHauler 2 aims to get you in the cockpit and flying to places you would never usually visit. Too many simmers shuttle between the same handful of airports which they likely have scenery for – there is a whole world out there, and AirHauler 2 aims to get you to explore it a bit more.
The initial release of Air Hauler was quite a while ago now, what are the main differences between version 1 and 2?
Well, the initial release of AirHauler 2 was quite a while ago also. X-Plane users may forget that AirHauler has been out for several years already, even for X-Plane. The main differences between 1 and 2 give the user the ability to own or be a member of a Virtual Airline, non-playing character-based missions at airports, humanitarian missions, better job generation. AirHauler 2 allows you to purchase and sell commodities for a profit, being able to create factories to produce high-value commodities from base materials, and even construct aircraft from parts you will find at various airports.
Air Hauler 2 was originally released for FSX and P3D, what made you develop an X-Plane version?
I did not initially want to develop AirHauler 2 for X-Plane. At that time X-Plane was still at V10, and to be honest, I hated it. The UI was horrendous, the unrepresentative auto-gen scenery was terrible, it was updated very frequently which broke whatever you had just implemented and sales of Air Hauler 1 for XP were quite low. It was not until V11 that I took another look at X-Plane and found it to be something I would want to use. This coincided with the release of JustFlight’s Traffic Global product and the strong demand for that which showed that it would be worthwhile. JustFlight were very keen for me to do it on that basis.
How does AirHauler 2 for P3D differ from AirHauler 2 for X-Plane?
They are separate builds, but they share much of the standard AirHauler 2 code. The flight-tracking system and how it communicates with the sim has been completely re-written for X-Plane. There are other changes for scenery and aircraft importing, and other under-the-hood changes for things which X-Plane doesn’t do in the same way as FSX/P3D. The core functionality of the application itself is the same, however.
Are there any differences in user experience between Air Hauler 2 for P3D versus X-Plane?
Not really – it is pretty much identical from a user experience perspective. X-Plane has less formality around the content of aircraft and scenery files than FSX/P3D does which was initially problematic, however, it was possible to work around. Aside from that, there are no main differences, it is even possible to have a Virtual Airline which includes both X-Plane and FSX/P3D pilots in the same organisation. The X-Plane version is more current than the FSX/P3D version, but I will be patching that up shortly, so they keep pace with each other.
When using AirHauler 2, how do you measure success? Cash vs fleet vs XP?
Fun!!!! It is up to the user how they play AirHauler 2 – if they want loads of cash and a fleet of heavy metal, they can do that. Many people prefer bush ops in light singles. If people are enjoying it, that is what I would regard as success.
Is there a feature you are most proud of?
I like the crafting, commodity and manufacturing system. It is something I have always liked in other games, usually MMO or RPGs, and as far as I am aware it is unique in the flight simulator market. Currently, you can only supply crafted commodities to NPCs who require them, but I have several enhancements planned very soon to open that up so you can trade them in airports as with other commodities.
You have included real-world humanitarian aid missions which seem very applicable to today’s current climate, how do you determine what crises to include and how do you manage this in AirHauler?
The aid missions are created manually – it is not possible to automate them, and to be relevant, they need to reflect real-world events. It would be strange if AirHauler 2 shut down all of Japan because of a fictional typhoon which was not happening in the real world. Also, it allows me to pick and choose what makes it into the virtual world. Some events, as these can be disasters with huge loss of life, don’t make it in as I don’t feel comfortable including them in what is ostensibly an entertainment product.
AirHauler 2 is extremely feature-rich which could seem daunting for a new flight simmer, what is the best way to start out but not to get too overwhelmed?
I would recommend, as always, reading the manual. It is very in-depth and does walk you through each step of how to get started with your first flight. There is also a wealth of information on the support forums, and I have recently done the first in what I hope will be a series of “Let’s Play” videos on YouTube. Several other streamers do AirHauler 2 themed videos, even more so now with the release of X-Plane.
How can someone starting out with flight simulation, use AirHauler 2 to their advantage or get to grips with flying?
AirHauler 2 will introduce you to real-world concepts which unless you look for them, most people simply ignore while simming. Take fuel, cargo, weight and balance, for example, these can cause issues when flying if incorrectly configured. There’s also the element of time. All aviation in the real world works on UTC, but many simmers simply don’t have any concept of that. They jump in the sim and fly at 3 pm local time, but if they had to file a flight plan in the real world, that could be 8 pm UTC. The more direct advantage is performance monitoring, especially when landing, and general aircraft handling whilst flying. It’s easy to watch streamers throwing aircraft around with no regard to how that would feel in the real world. If you have passengers on board, AirHauler 2 is going to tell you that you’re making them unhappy!
When putting together Air Hauler 2, did you have any real-world expert opinion or input on building airlines, maintaining a fleet or career progression at all?
I am a keen private pilot licence holder, who did at one time have an eye on going commercial, so I am reasonably informed to some of the industry. In previous employment with a manpower provider, we did have an aircrew division which was mostly rotary pilots and engineers. As AirHauler and AirHauler 2 have been developed, many of the users and forum posters are actively employed in that industry and have offered suggestions and advice.
Finally, where would you like to take AirHauler in the future with additions to v2 and possible version 3?
The big sticker item for the next 12 months will be Microsoft Flight Simulator integration, if possible. I’ll need to wait for that to be released to see what can be done and whether it’s an update to the FSX/P3D version to support it, or it needs a more separate implementation in the same way as the X-Plane version. Unfortunately, it’s too soon to tell at the moment. But if it is possible, I want to do it!
I would like to thank Duncan for taking the time to speak to FSElite. If you would like to purchase AirHauler 2 for X-Plane, you can find it over on the JustFlight Store for £32.99/€41.75/$49.49 inc. VAT.