The Future of Flight Simulator

image Much speculation has followed the closing of the ACES studio at Microsoft and the end of development of the long-running Microsoft Flight Simulator series.

Several recent stories in the tech and gaming press (example here) have quoted a Microsoft representative’s statement about what might happen to the product:

"We are committed to the Flight Simulator franchise, which has proven to be a successful PC-based game for the last 27 years," [Kelda] Rericha added. "You should expect us to continue to invest in enabling great Live experiences on Windows, including flying games, but we have nothing specific to announce at this time."

Like much corporate-speak, Rericha’s statement is a read-into-it-what-you-will horoscope. It’s too early to know if Microsoft will spin-off the code and other assets that it has owned and developed since Microsoft bought the Bruce Artwick Organization in 1996 and brought the product and its core team in-house. Whether another company could or would buy the IP in today’s environment is another open question.

[Update: Microsoft has posted some additional information on the FSInsider Web site.]

image We do, know, however, that the team that produced the product–many of whom had worked on the code, art, databases, and other components that comprise Flight Simulator for 10-15 years (some longer)–has been disbanded. They’re all looking for jobs, and with each passing day it becomes harder to reconstitute that group.

In the meantime, what to make of the statement that Microsoft "will continue to invest in…flying games"?

Note the careful choice of words: "games," not "simulations."

I bet that what will emerge will look something like this, an ironic throwback to early versions of Flight Simulator that included a crop duster and dueling WWI biplanes. Whatever name Microsoft uses to brand any offerings, the company clearly has ended its commitment to rich, deep simulations that put virtual aviators in a realistic pilot seat.

A Calm, Reasoned Follow-Up to the Ditching on the Hudson

Patrick Smith, who writes the "Ask the Pilot" column at, has posted an excellent follow-up story about the ditching of the US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson last week. It’s a refreshing review and analysis after the hyperventilating coverage that has dominated the news.

The End of Microsoft Flight Simulator

image The cuts announced at Microsoft yesterday include closing the entire ACES studio, the group that produced Flight Simulator and related products.

I’m still trying to gather more details, but as of yesterday, it’s the end of development for the venerable FS franchise (and probably the associated Microsoft ESP, the new commercial simulation platform based on FS), one of the longest-running titles in the history of the PC.

I don’t know yet if there’s any hope that the code could be spun off to a third party, but as of January 22, the most important asset–the team that has produced FS for so many years–has been disbanded.

In the meantime, you can find information about Flight Simulator, including links to the network of add-on developers and community Web sites, on a page at my Web site.

Update: PC Magazine posted a story today with a few more details, but not much hard news, about Microsoft’s actions and plans.

Pictures from a Cirrus Formation Clinic

image I flew my Extra 300L as the photo ship for a formation clinic that my ex-military pals conducted for several Cirrus pilots recently. We based out of Boulder City, NV (61B). In addition to working on the basics of formation flying, we did a scenic tour around Hoover Dam, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead.

Pictures are in one of my Live Spaces photo albums. All of the photos (except those of my airplane) were taken from my airplane by Pat DuLaney, spouse of the formation lead, Mark "Dula" DuLaney, formerly an aggressor squadron commander at Nellis AFB, now a captain at Southwest.

And–spoiler alert–not all of the pictures are of Cirruses. We had a special guest on the flight this morning, and after I broke off from the 4-ship, I got to play alongside a rare bird….