Hi everyone, Evan here. You may know me as a co-founder of Flight Simulation Association and FlightSimExpo. I had the chance to attend AERO 2022 in Friedrichshafen, Germany last week to represent FSA and re-connect with developers we haven’t seen in 2+ years. After so many lockdowns and travel restrictions, it was great to visit an event on the other side of the pond, even just for a day.
During the show, I visited with several flight simulation developers and collected some interesting updates. I asked FSElite if they would want to help share the news and, well, here we are. Hope you enjoy my take on AERO 2022 and appreciate the tidbits I was able to tease out of some of our community’s most popular developers.
- Honeycomb’s new CHARLIE rudder pedals will be available for preorders in July. A re-engineered, Xbox-compatible yoke called the ALPHA XPC is coming in June.
- X-Plane 12 is looking better than ever with new “autogen” scenery, improved coastlines, and dynamic season modelling.
- I met Clearprop Studios and was blown away by the level of detail a small team can build into towns and airports in MSFS.
AERO 2022 is one of Europe’s largest general aviation events. It helped me to think about it like the AirVenture or Sun ‘n Fun of Europe. The event was held on April 27-30 and welcomed almost 30,000 attendees from 75 countries.
Friedrichshafen is a cute 60,000-person town on the shores of Lake Constance (“Bodensee” in German). In the southwestern corner of Germany, it’s not far from the borders of Austria and Switzerland. The town’s history dates to the world-famous airships developed by Graf Zeppelin (there is a large museum downtown, and you can even take airship rides over the lake).
Although it’s possible to fly your own aircraft to the show—and by the looks of the FBOs, plenty did—the fly-in and “camping” component is less significant than the U.S. shows (and there’s no airshow). Instead, the exhibit space is massive—there were more than 630 exhibitors across 11 giant exhibit halls. I appreciated the ability to fly commercially into Friedrichshafen Airport (Lufthansa offers 3 regional connections per day from Frankfurt). Others flew to Munich, Zurich, Vienna, and other nearby centers and drove or used Germany’s extensive train network to attend.
My event experience began the night before at a dinner we organized with several flight simulation developers who were in town: Aerosoft, Airfoil Labs, AviationLads, FS-FlightControl, Honeycomb, ProSim-AR, and X-Plane. Although I’d seen Nicki, Ryan, Thomson, and Philipp in San Diego a few months earlier, it was the first time re-connecting with Winfried, William, Andreas, and Hanne for more than two years because of pandemic-related travel restrictions. I also met several European developers for the first time.
Whenever I attend any of the “real-world” airshows, I’m always pleasantly surprised at the flight simulation presence. Alongside the formal “Flight Simulator Area” exhibitor display on the show floor (more on that later), I ran into Laura and Cameron from Infinite Flight just a few minutes into my exploring.
I was also surprised and excited to see MobiFlight exhibiting at the flight simulator display. Unfortunately, outside of a quick hello, Sebastian was mobbed with people throughout the day so I didn’t have a chance to say more. Sadly, I also missed AviationLads, Flight Sim Coach, and Virtual-Fly, who were at the show earlier in the week.
Most of AERO is focused on general aviation in Europe. Aircraft from the big players (Airbus, Boeing, Cessna, Daher, Piper) to small, experimental ultralights were found across the show. Walking through the event space, you couldn’t get far without wondering “wait…this thing actually flies?”
There was plenty of aviation gin on sample and I did see more than a few flight simulators as part of the general aviation aircraft displays, including this X-Plane-powered full-motion simulator featuring the C42 model from vFlyteAir.
Alongside the exhibition, conference sessions were ongoing for the four days, with a focus on next-generation propulsion for sustainable general aviation. At events like these, it’s clear that aviation is moving toward more and more electric, hybrid-electric, hydrogen fuel cell, bio, and e-fuel options.
But, of course, we’re here to talk about flight simulation, which is why I spent most of my day at the “Flight Simulator Area” in Hall A6 to find out what some of our favourite developers have been up to.
Flight Simulation Updates
The Flight Simulation Area at AERO is mostly a creation of Aerosoft (in the “before times”, Aerosoft has also run a standalone flight simulation show in Germany). I can’t speak enough about how important it is for flight simulation technology to be on display at “real-world” aviation events like this one, and I’m proud to see Aerosoft stepping up to the plate with financial and organizational help. In the few hours I was in the area, I saw hundreds of pilots stop by to experience MSFS, X-Plane 12, IVAO, VATSIM, and much more.
After having a look around and enjoying a lunch of käsespätzle with Infinite Flight (thanks again for lunch, Laura!), I stopped by each booth to see what news and updates I could tease out of the developers.
I started speaking with Ryan, Honeycomb’s Global Marketing Manager. He was halfway through giving me a nice quote about how it’s “great to be back in person and to gain a better understanding of the European market” when Nicki (the owner) came by and said “nobody wants to hear that; let’s talk about how we’ve teamed up with Laminar to showcase the latest X-Plane 12 and some brand new Honeycomb hardware”, which he then proceeded to show me.
A few moments later, I was looking at Honeycomb’s CHARLIE Pedals, which Nicki says are “available for preorder in July.” Preorders will be shipped directly from the factory, meaning the first should arrive in simmers’ homes in August.
I also got to try the new ALPHA XPC. This is a rework of Honeycomb’s ultra-popular yoke, which Nicki tells me has been redesigned with four times the resolution/precision of the original. It now features hall effect sensors instead of potentiometers, and a spring-loaded ignition, to create a more accurate feel for simmers. This is the first of Honeycomb’s hardware that will be plug and play both with PC and Xbox. The ALPHA XPC is planned for shipping in July.
If you’re hoping to use Honeycomb’s hardware on the Xbox, Nicki confirmed this will all be possible. You’ll need:
- The new ALPHA XPC (yoke) when it comes out.
- A Honeycomb Xbox Hub. Expected to release alongside the ALPHA XPC.
With those two pieces of hardware, the existing Honeycomb BRAVO (throttle quadrant) and the new CHARLIE (pedals) will both be compatible with PC and Xbox.
Finally, Nicki showed me prototypes of the new Sigma Tao fighter jet HOTAS and told me that they’re working on an FAA-certified FTD that could happen as early as the beginning of next year!
Laminar Research’s Thomson (marketing) and Philipp (aircraft systems) were both on-hand to demo the latest updates on X-Plane 12. I thought the sim looked and performed beautifully on a 5K curved monitor, but Thomson was quick to tell me they are still making performance improvements.
I was most impressed by the new “autogen” scenery, which Thomson called “a refreshed DSF with new OpenStreetMap data”. You can get a sense of the scenery improvements and new coastlines from this terrible-quality video I shot from my phone (not easy with that beautiful, curved monitor). This is all new since the last time we saw X-Plane 12 in-person at FlightSimExpo in San Diego.
Philipp took the stage on Wednesday morning to talk more about X-Plane 12’s benefits for training along with some of the new dynamic season functionality. The audience loved watching the snow melt as Philipp increased the in-sim temperature setting on a winter day.
Although we don’t have a definite release date yet, Thomson told me that the Laminar team is “hard at work making sure that X-Plane 12 is a delightful sim to fly” and ensuring the finished product reflects the stability and compatibility that are synonymous with X-Plane these days.
I didn’t realize that Aerosoft has an over 30 year history that began with a standalone “aircraft control panel” hardware device for one of the early versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator. Today, Aerosoft has one of the largest PC simulation ranges in the world with nearly 1,000 products available and more than 30 employees and 50 developers worldwide.
For me, the highlight was finally meeting Vanessa, with whom I’ve corresponded via email for years but hadn’t met. Aerosoft had the largest display, showcasing their new aircraft and scenery while offering the platform for attendees to fly X-Plane 12 and other simulators at the show.
I hadn’t heard of Clearprop Studios until I sat down with Thommes to drone camera fly our way through two of the MSFS airports they’ve just released on Aerosoft, SimMarket, and the MSFS store. Each of the airports is in Germany and has a personal connection to Thommes, who is also a real pilot.
The level of detail in these airports is incredible: hangar doors that open and close with the time of day, vehicle traffic that stops at a red light for a landing aircraft, and animated kids in the playground next to the runway. Some animations are coming in a future update. But it’s not just the airports: being a GA-focused developer, Clearprop has also placed or improved visual landmarks in the surrounding region. Your purchase also includes the real-world VFR airport charts, which can be tricky to find online for European airports.
The level of detail in these airports is incredible: hangar doors that open and close with the time of day, terminal and hangar walk-through functionality, and animated kids in the playground next to the runway. But it’s not just the airports: being a GA-focused developer, Clearprop has also placed or improved visual landmarks in the surrounding region. Your purchase also includes the real-world VFR airport charts, which can be tricky to find online for European airports.
Clearprop is also working on their first aircraft, The Breezer. Funnily enough, the real aircraft was also at the event:
As usual, I couldn’t find a good time to speak with Andreas from FS-FlightControl because his booth was so busy! If you haven’t seen them at FlightSimExpo, FS-FlightControl offers a comprehensive “Instructor Station” that provides training, analysis, and sim control features with a simple, touch-optimized interface.
I (briefly) asked if most Andreas’ customers were flight schools. He started to say yes just as the other booth representative said no…so I guess it’s fair to say that around half of users are also home simmers. There’s a free 14-day trial of Andreas’ software available at their website for anyone who wants to learn more.
FlightSimExpo San Diego was one of the first places anyone could try YawVR’s compact and affordable VR motion chair. They had the “Pro Edition” on display at AERO, which features redesigned cabling to make the experience that much better for users.
As someone who attends these events more for the people than the tech, I enjoyed finally meeting Peter Simon, my primary contact from FSExpo who unfortunately couldn’t attend the event in person.
Online ATC Networks
These days, I spend most of my “sim time” as a virtual controller on VATSIM. So, naturally, seeing VATSIM Germany and IVAO at the show was a highlight for me. Not needing to ask questions about the network I spend plenty of time on, I spent the time chatting with Benjamin, Felix, and Sebastian about my real-world arrival experience at Frankfurt Airport (where else do you see a full Boeing 747 parked at a hard stand or go through passport control three times just to change planes?).
Having not spent much time with IVAO, I was impressed by their turnout: there must have been at least 10 IVAO controllers on-site at the show. IVAO has some big plans for the year, including the release of a new controller client (Aurora) and voice UNICOM and ATIS expected later this year. The team also told me that the release of new World Servers was expected to happen on April 30 at the event. The new tech is expected to provide near real-time position updating and the foundation for future development at IVAO.
Everyone I Missed
With only one day at the event and feeling the effects of two Atlantic crossings in four days, I’ve probably forgotten to mention something important—hopefully, I haven’t forgotten someone important.
I quite enjoyed the show and hope to make this a regular thing, especially if the flight simulation presence will be a component every year. Friedrichshafen is a great place for an event like this, and the ability to fly commercially to the airshow made it easier to get to. It’s also a beautiful town to spend a few days taking boat or Zeppelin rides, biking, or walking.
Next year’s AERO is scheduled for April 19-23 in Friedrichshafen. You can find more information about the show at www.aero-expo.com.