FSWeekend Road Report 2018
Also having just returned from FSWeekend, I thought that it might be a neat idea to write down a couple of impressions from this year’s edition of FSWeekend. Last weekend was my 14th time of organising and presenting FlightGear at FSWeekend and it marked the first time that we were located in the main exhibition hall – at our own request. Since we wanted to engage the public a bit more in our activities, we chose to focus on preparing a demo of one the historic aircraft from the museum’s collection and settled on the Lockheed Constellation. Preparations for this started already in the late spring / early summer of this year, with a google hangout chat between Stuart, James and me. James announce his plan to ship his home-built cockpit over to Lelystad, and Stuart considered building a kiosk style simulator, where visitors could do a short, two-minute demo landing of the Constellation. After some frantic construction work by Stuart (with some help from James), the whole thing took shape late October, with the fresh layers of paint still being wet while it was finally assembled in Lelystad last Friday. In the meantime, Isaak had reconfigured his regular set up, so that the viewports of his monitors matched the physical setup of that of the Connie Kiosk, but without having had a chance of physically testing anything. Two different parts of the project that were independently of each other shipped from Scotland and Belgium to Lelystad, but with no chance of an integrated systems test. But, we figured, we’d have plenty of time to fine-tune everything on Friday evening, only to find out that the museum would close much earlier than we had expected, so we’d have to do everything by Saturday morning! Yuck!
In the evening, we all met at the famous Flantuas restaurant, to have one of their renowned “Wereldburgers” and a couple of beers. Here we met with Torsten (whom, I assumed would also want to have a Wereldburger, so we all patiently waited until Torsten arrived before ordering, only to find out that Torsten had already eaten…). After a quick dinner, we quit early, because we needed to head out to our AirBnB, to make sure we’d be ready for an early start the next day. Our friendly AirBnB hosts didn’t mind that we already wanted to have breakfast at 6:30, so we’d be on our way again at around seven. Just a few hours later and everything was running. The kiosk worked, James’s Boeing Cockpit worked, albeit with a couple of minor glitches, Michael’s ATC-Pie and projector were up and running, and my computer also worked, despite a minor boot issue during setup on Friday: what’s more, it even booted properly while my home-built and much talked-about poor man’s throttle quadrant was still attached to it: Something that it isn’t supposed to do…
By 10:00AM the doors opened and we also welcomed Gijs to the Team. Gijs had brought some last minute improvements to the Lelystad Scenery, that we uploaded to Torstens’s raspberry Pie, wich served as a temporary terrasync server. Once uploaded, we all had the latest layout of Lelystad available, with Open Street Map data, extended runways, and new terminal buildings. Saturday morning was really busy and I recall almost constantly talking to visitors and explaining the origin and the philosophy of the FlightGear project to many people. I noticed quite a lot of interest and many people stuck around for quite some time. Also, Isaak and Stuart were almost constantly occupied running the Kiosk: at the end of the Weekend, over sixty visitors, mostly young children, had attempted to fly the Connie to a successful landing at Lelystad. Likewise, James and Michael were also constantly busy.
My own flying skills were quite rusty on Saturday: due to work commitments, I hadn’t touched FlightGear for at least six months prior, and had hardly even looked at the program since last FSWeekend. Adding to the fact that talking to visitors doesn’t help one’s navigational skills, my initial landing attempts, were –eehm--- rusty, to put it mildly. But, after a bit of practice, everything became smoother and by Sunday I was ready for a slightly more challenging approach.
Although the stream of visitors slowed down a bit during the afternoon, it was still good and we also had the pleasure to meet a number of regular FlightGear users, who had traveled quite a long distance to visit the FlightGear booth, including Thorsten Brehm, who flew in from Germany, as well as quite a number of other people whom we already knew from the forum. In the evening, again had dinner at Flantuas (guess what most of us had for dinner), together with some of our visitors: Rick (vanosten) from the OSM building project, as well as Daniel and Henning from Germany and Tim, from Enschede, with whom I’m discussing the possibilities of using FlightGear in educational projects.
After a great Saturday, quite a bit of pressure was lifted from our shoulders. Since we didn’t need to get up this early, we took it quite easy on Sunday and were back at the venue around 8:30. Sunday was considerably more quiet than Saturday, but still enough people gathered to keep us occupied. Since it was less crowded, the Sunday also gave us some time to explore and stroll around the exhibits ourselves. It also gave me some chances to try and improve my Connie skills a bit and by the end of the day, I was giving the Thunderstorm scenario a chance, while doing landing practices in Amsterdam. As a very nice surprise, our AirBnB hosts also showed up an were very interested in what we were doing. For my final flight of the day, I took them from Amsterdam back to Lelystad, while flying over their house. One stormy and bumpy landing later, it was already five ‘O clock and time to close down. Time flies (quite literally in this case) when you’re having fun.
To summarize, this year’s FSWeekend has been quite remarkable. From the underdog that FlightGear was 14 years ago, we’ve grown quite considerably. A fact that many visitors also noted, and also a fact that shows from the level of risks that we’re willing to take, and the level of confidence that we have that things will just work: Seven people, living in five different countries, each bringing some equipment, and after hooking it up, it all just works!
From me, a big thank you goes out to James, Stuart, Michael, Isaak, Gijs, and Torsten. Gentlemen, it’s been a pleasure to collaborate and I sincerely hope to continue this collaboration at a future event.
Please find some photo's I took at my flickr account: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmmqc26S (Please do not redistribute by any other means than sharing a link to the flickr page).