Every November, groups of flight simulation enthusiasts join together in home-built cockpits around the globe in order to fly a virtual world tour, all in the name of charity. The collective for this group is WorldFlight, and sees groups from the UK, Australia, Germany, Turkey and the USA, fly various aircraft around the world, ranging from the Airbus A330, Boeing 737 Boeing 747. All the teams operate home-built cockpits that have been meticulously put together using real-world aircraft parts to create their real-world counterpart capable of flying around the virtual skies.
Worldflight has taken place every year since 2001 in order to raise as much money for charity as possible. In 2020, there are now 12 teams that take part and raise funds for their independent charities. This year’s Worldflight has taken the teams around the globe in 49 short legs of around 2-3 hours long, starting and finishing in Sydney Australia, visiting areas of the world sometimes more accessible than others, such as Nome Alaska, Gander, famous for being a small airport that handled 38 aircraft from the mid-Atlantic that sought refuge during the attacks of 9/11, and the tricky approach of Toncontin in Honduras which is tough in any aircraft, let alone the Queen of the Skies.
One of the teams taking part is based in the south of the UK called Simfest. The team is usually made up of over 20 members, both real-world pilots and flight simulator enthusiasts including some names you may recognise from Twitch. This year, due to covid restrictions, the team are down to only six crew members consisting of Gary ‘Goli’ Oliver who owns the sim and is currently studying for his PPL, Dan Parkin, real-world pilot in training, James ‘Horgy’ Horgan who is an airline pilot (not that he will ever mention it), Johnny Vaughan, also an airline pilot who streams on Twitch as well as Matt Smith, known as Chewy and finally, aircraft engineer, Matt Weddell. The team have following covid guidelines and have been living with each other for the past two weeks in preparation for the tour around the world, which consisted of a week of self-isolation and a covid 19 test each, before coming together to ensure the safety of themselves and others. You will even see periodic hand sanitising and the use of masks on stream too.
The Simfest UK team fly a real-world 747-400 fixed-base cockpit which has been put together by Gary and others from the team over the last six years. The aircraft is primarily made from salvaged real aircraft parts from old Boeing 747-400’s that were being scrapped at the time and took around 11 months to wire up and put together, ready for a flight. Throughout the last six years, upgrades have been made to the cockpit to ensure it is as close to operating as the real thing so every button, panel, screen, air conditioning system and circuit breaker works as it would in any real aircraft including the pop-up galley camera and screen. The simulator uses many different pieces of software, which require 12 PCs to bring the whole experience together. The visuals that are shown on projected screens are driven by P3D over three computers, the aircraft systems are driven through PSX, which is a 747 precision systems simulator made by Aerowinx run on a server. The rest of the computers take care of vPilot for interacting with VATSIM, a dispatch system and twitch streaming. Along with the huge PC usage, the team have two iPads for use as an EFB for each pilot, a stream deck along with various cameras throughout the cockpit.
Throughout the past 6 days, the team have endured all sorts of weird and wonderful experiences all for viewers to watch through their Twitch stream which is live 24/7 throughout the event. Viewers this week would have witnessed Johnny and Chewy’s professional approach into Toncontin stopping just short of the runway threshold. The ‘Wine and Cheese Symposium’ was a personal highlight, which saw Gary and Horgy try to operate the aircraft whilst sampling the finest cuisine and beverages Dan had to offer, which included copious amounts of Swedish herbal liquor. Another highlight was seeing the different crews try to tackle numerous faults and failures imposed on them by suggestions of the chat, not only was it entertaining, but it was also an insight into how real-world pilots would use the Quick Reaction Handbook to combat issues in the cockpit. Each leg of the trip gives viewers the chance to donate a sum of money to the chosen charity, and to be entered into a draw to win a plethora of donated prizes such as copies of MSFS, a B747 CDU, Orbx bundles, SoFly’s Weather Preset Pro and various other prizes. Although there are only six people operating the sim this year, there have been appearances from other team members via video link as social secretary as well as a hilarious comedy link from an igloo where retired flight attendant Mavis and her husband, Dick, have relocated to.
Simfest’s aim is to raise as much money for their chosen charity, The Lullaby Trust, whose efforts in raising awareness of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is helped massively by Simfest and their viewers. Simfest started Worldflight 2020 with a target of £10,000 in mind and at the time of publication, the team and their viewers have raised a whopping £22,000 which has surpassed 200% of their original target still with a few legs to go. This particular charity is close to the hearts of the team and was chosen because of the relatively small charity size and what the sum of donated funds would mean to them. Not only have the team had support from their viewers, friends and family and the charity, they have also received some important messages from celebrities around the world such as Captain Lee Rosbach from the TV show Below Deck, Jen Colella who plays Beverly Bass in the Broadway musical ‘Come From Away’ – all about Gander during 9/11, and James Buckley who portrays Jay in the Inbetweeners. You can head on over to the Simfest UK’s Facebook page to view these.
To catch the final few legs of this year’s worldflight with the Simfest crew, you can find their Twitch stream here. If you would like more information on the great work that The Lullaby Trust do or to donate to the Simfest cause you can do that by following this link. To find out more about the other teams at Worldflight, their simulators and their selected charities, you can head on over to the Worldflight Website.