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Opinion: projectFLY Is Seeking Even MORE Money

Chrome 2020 04 01 19 03 26

Update – April 3rd 2020 – We have added the news that ProjectFLY Systems LTD is now a registered company of Matt Davies. It is not a subsidiary or a holding company according to the documents file on Companies House.

April 1st is meant to be a day of fun, laughter and harmless pranks that give people a bit of a chuckle. During the current global situation, small victories and good will are what we’re all looking for right now. So when I saw projectFLY needs your help! in my inbox, I was half-expecting some kind of amusing post or change to projectFLY to reflect on the day of jest.

There certainly was a joke in the email. Just far from being funny.

So yet again, Matt Davies / projectFLY / Mettar Simulations / projectFLY Systems Ltd (you choose) is asking for money. It’s now beyond a joke that a person/team/company can constantly reach out to the community asking for money and always use the same excuse. As a community, I think we get it: server bills can get expensive and projectFLY is a free service. The issue is that time and time again the community is being begged to, to cough up the cash to keep the service alive.

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A portion of the email sent out today.

It’s all well and good to say that a project doesn’t have any sponsorship or ads, but when you say that your services cost £2,000 a month to run, you need to know what your revenue sources are to help sustain that. Begging the community every few months is not sustainable in the slightest.

When projectFLY started back in 2014, many were immediately impressed by having a way to log and track flights in a simple system. I personally was a huge fan. As people used it, it expanded into version 2 which added a nice new UI, new features and slowly cemented this useful tool into people’s everyday simming experience. As it became more popular, projectFLY was fortunate enough to then have help from incredibly dedicated volunteers.

From there, that’s when things went from being a neat side-project into a business nightmare. When investments were made into Mettar Simulations, developers were brought on board in a full-time capacity, helping to develop products under the single banner of Mettar Simulations. Despite version 3 being relatively nicely made and updated somewhat frequently, new issues become very clear. After months of no payments to staff, many of them left to fund their lives through alternative means. Matt begged them to stay, paid some of them out of his own pocket, but soon that well of cash dried up. A second investor tried to pull the sinking ship out from troubles, but even that investor jumped not long after.

Investment troubles aside, it was the promise of the 4th version of projectFLY which kept the fire alive with the community. Since June last year, the community has been promised the all-new version. Release dates can slip and slide, of course, but the promise of this new version was also a promise to stop asking the community for donations to keep the application alive. Time and time again it’s been said that once projectFLY v4 was out the door, a new revenue stream of sustainable subscriptions would prevent the community crowdfunding card from being played again.

Let us have a quick trip down memory lane of what was promised, when and the end result. The results are rather repetitive in nature and serve as a reminder what the community had been promised and told multiple times.

June 2019

During FlightSimExpo 2019, it was promised to the world that version 4 was going to be released during June. We covered this during our FlightSimExpo coverage. Of course, delays can happen, but it was made quite clear the development was almost complete by this point.

July 2019

In July 2019, a mass email to the community seeking funding from the community. Huge server costs were blamed and said that multiple subscription-based options were available to support the application.

In regards to version 4, the email said that it was “around the corner.”

October 15th 2019

This is when the financial troubles really started hitting the community’s pocket. Matt said that Google had shut down the servers after racking up a bill of over £2700. Further to the troubles with projectFLY, other services such as PTA were also being affected with people unable to download and activate their products as it all ran on the same server.

November 2019

On November 11th, projectFLY was down due to an attack. No further details were released, nor information regarding people’s personal data. In a world where privacy is important and where online services are being held more accountable, to hear a popular service with 60,000 accounts was attacked certainly required a much more appropriate response. All that was said was that the system was being attacked and then brought back to normal.

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Just a few days later, another call-to-action was raised on the Mettar website asking for donations to keep things alive.

In November 2019, a new statement said that projectFLY version 4 would release on or before December 8th 2019. This clearly didn’t happen. It wouldn’t be then for another week, something would then happen.

December 2019

projectFLY went down again on December 11th with zero communication. We then reached out to the projectFLY Facebook group asking what was going on. A temporary splash page was put up stating that the website and application was “coming soon”. What’s more, it was decided that media outlets “threatened” simply for asking for a status as the official projectFLY channels were silent. We simply asked a question on behalf of the community and for those that donated to the cause. Promises were broken left and right and frustrations began to rise.

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The splash screen used during the December outage.

Following on from that, projectFLY v3 came back online before then the news that projectFLY was confirmed to be going down again on December 15th 2019 to transfer over data to the new version of projectFLY. It was made clear that they had to transfer over 1tb of information to the new server, but days passed with bare-bones information. Eventually, it was yet again conceded that version 4 was never actually ready.

An apology was made for creating a false impression, but let’s be real, the community was literally told version 4 was ready and coming. A splash screen on the website saying “we’re upgrading” was used. That’s not a false impression: that’s a lie. The community was told that an amount of £2000 was required to get the servers spun up again so data could be transferred. Yet again, those words were heard and the community reacted to support so projectFLY could continue to thrive and exist for those that rely on it religiously for their flight sim experience. In just a matter of a few hours, the money was raised and the website was functional again. It’s clear the community came together because they want to see projectFLY survive. But the question is, how many times can we hear the same excuses and requests for money.

Those in the community that donated must be getting frustrated to see that each time these statements are made only for no action to be taken. On numerous occasions, it has been said that there would be transparency with how the money is spent (more than just “on server costs”), but that never has come to fruition other than sharing what services were being used.

Fast forward to March and a new Patreon campaign has been set up to help support projectFLY server bills. At the time of writing, only 90 people are contributing which amounts of just 17% of the goal on Patreon. Based on previous amounts, we can assume that the goal is £2000. This means right now, Patreon is bringing in £340 to uphold the servers for projectFLY. A far cry from what is needed to maintain this expensive community-based project. I should add that the Focus group page currently states that as of March 15th, the goal sits at £1160.

So yet again, another email has been sent to the masses begging for money. Again more promises of projectFLY being around the corner. Yet, no previews, no information – nothing. Just empty promises in the hope that more money is sent to Matt Davies. Other promises such as a “Wall of Fame” and “pimping profiles” are also pretty pointless when you don’t even have a platform to deliver any of that on.

Money has always been an issue with this application and project. I fully support community-developed projects, but not ones that continuously lie and deceive people out of hard-earned money. Even worse is when the same person who is asking for money then boasts in public about finding new cars to buy or getting flying lessons. I’m not accusing the money isn’t being put to the right use (that’s proven since projectFLY is online currently), but it must leave a bitter taste for those that donate their hard-earned money.

It’s no secret that Mettar Simulations is under some financial pressure, so it’s surprising to see that a new company has supposedly been registered. According to his focus group application page and now email, projectFLY Systems Ltd is a registered UK company. According to Companies House (where all companies are legally required to register in the UK), said limited company does not exist. If anyone says there “may be a delay” – we’ve checked it periodically for the past few weeks and there’s still nothing. We know from experience it usually takes a few days to appear online – not weeks (not even with the current COVID-19 situation).

Update 03-April-2020: projectFLY Systems Ltd has now been registered on Companies House as of the 3rd April 2020. It is wholly owned by Matt Davies according to the documentation filed on incorporation. This means that it is not a subsidiary of Mettar Simulations or a holding company like was claimed during one of his streams this week.

To continue posting on FSElite about how Matt Davies / projectFLY / Mettar Simulations / projectFLY Systems Ltd needs money from the community at this point seems wrong. Going forward, it’s unlikely we’ll cover future posts regarding the availability of projectFLY or whether a new round of donation is required. It feels like we would be doing a disservice to the community who puts their trust in us to report on developers who uphold their promises or take accountability for their actions. I’m aware that there will be some who disagree with that stance, but from what we’ve seen around the community, there is certainly frustration on how this application and business has been handled.

One possible solution to help us with these woes would be to make projectFLY an open-source project and let the community help to develop it. After all, it has been preached time and time again this is a non-profit venture, so why not let the people help run and create it. The number of money people has so far donated would certainly suggest that is the case.

ProjectFLY is a great tool with so much potential; it’s just a shame to see these events continue to transpire.

 

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The email dated April 1st 2020 in full.

Calum Martin

The author Calum Martin

I have been an avid fan of Flight Sim since the release of ‘2000 and have developed my love for aviation ever since. I have the knowledge and experience to really deliver an excellent aviation community. Although no real life flying experience, I have a good understanding and always learning more and more.
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