Hello, fellow X-Plane pilots!
Well, we’re back from Amsterdam, and while tiring, it was a pleasant trip! One of the things I look forward to most on trips like these is meeting up with other X-Aviation developers and X-Plane enthusiasts. There’s no better place to do that than a flight sim enthusiast conference, right? Right!
This trip was rather spur of the moment. I had been teeter tottering heading out to Amsterdam for FS Weekend for a few weeks prior to the event, but never fully committed. Ultimately I had decided I may skip it this year and work on some pressing matters here at the X-Aviation office. Tom Kyler flew out here to work with me as he normally does on an almost weekly basis. We have a nice setup here with a bunch of latest generation Apple brand computers, so it’s a great work environment with good hardware. Tom is usually busy working on X-Plane 10 at the desk behind me, while I tend to do various coding projects for the Saab 340 or back-end overhauls to the X-Aviation server. Lately it seems to be more mixed with X-Plane 10 beta testing, however. We’re doing our best to ensure everything works smooth in the transition!
It was day two of Tom being in the office with me when I decided I should probably commit to going to Amsterdam. It’s good for us to be dedicated and know where the X-Plane market is headed, as well as what the Microsoft Flight Sim users think of this upcoming X-Plane version. Given this fact, I turned to Tom and gave the proposition that we fly out to Amsterdam and see what it’s all about. Austin was there, and Tom was already feverishly working on getting the new Seattle-Tacoma scenery finished in preparation for Austin’s presentation at the conference. There was one requirement for us to get over there, and that was flying First Class from the USA to Amsterdam. Tom needed the workspace to “set up shop” and ensure he could get his work done on time for Austin if we were to do this, and coach doesn’t have the room needed to get the job done. With this little tidbit of “workload” in mind, we set out to get our tickets booked and prepare for the trip. Delta was our carrier of choice. They classify their First Class service as “Business Elite,” and our trip would take us through Memphis and then non-stop to Amsterdam.
Jetting off to Memphis, TN
When we got to Memphis we had about two hours left before departure to Amsterdam, so we grabbed a light bite to eat. One thing about international First or Business class on any airline is they stuff you to the brim on your flight, often times making it so you’re full before you’re near done with what they have planned for you to eat. We ended up settling on a small BBQ restaurant and headed back to our gate only to find out the emergency slide had been pulled on the inbound aircraft, so they had to wait for additional parts coming in from Atlanta before we could depart. This ultimately led up to a four hour delay, but we made do!
Once on-board, we took our seats and got comfy for the long haul. I planned to sleep most of the journey after dinner, while Tom planned to work through a good portion of the flight mixed with some much needed rest to prepare for some busy work once we got to Amsterdam. There’s not much to say about the flight going over, so I’ll share it in picture form:
Appetizer - Salad, Tuna Steaks, Tomato Basil Soup
Main Course - Pan Seared Fish, Wild Rice, Green Beans
After this it was bed time for six hours. I opted not to go with the additional meal selections, which was a cheese plate followed by ice cream sundae. It’s a lot of food!
But, six hours later….
Eggs, Sausage, French Toast, and Fruit Bowl
And an hour later we arrived into Amsterdam…
Landing at Schiphol
Yep, we're in the Netherlands!
Once we got off the plane we cleared customs relatively quick and proceeded to the train station. Due to our delay in Memphis it was already four in the afternoon and the sun was quickly going down. Our hotel was a very nice place directly across the street from Amsterdam Centraal Train Station. This was a great location, as I had never been to Amsterdam before and wanted to explore without much hassle. This was also perfect for Tom, as he could work away in the hotel as needed and hop out into the “party” of people for a quick bite or sight see during mental breaks.
Austin’s presentation wasn’t till Sunday, and we arrived on Friday. We decided we would spend Friday evening and all of Saturday in Amsterdam proper to be a bit touristy, and just go to the conference on the one day that really mattered to us (Sunday). Friday ended with a nice dinner along one of the busier areas in the city followed by a quick walk through the red light district and then it was time for bed.
The Red Light District
The Grasshopper - Marijuana, Alcohol, Steak House, and Coffee Bar spread across three levels.
On Saturday morning we woke up to some relatively nice weather and I decided to go sight see for a good chunk of the day. Tom stayed back to work on X-Plane 10 stuff. If you’ve never been to Amsterdam before you should definitely pencil it in as a “To Do” in your lifetime! It’s a rather busy place, but it has a lot of history and beauty as well. Just walking around the city itself is a great experience, which is precisely what I chose to do.
Amsterdam is full of many canals like this
Another Canal...lots of boats!
After a while we headed back to pick up Tom for a quick walk over to the Anne Frank House. This is the one “exhibit” we decided on between the Van Gogh Museum or the house. It was a good choice, as seeing something like this smacks you in the head and reminds you that it wasn’t long ago when certain parts of the world were killing innocent human beings for unjustified reasons. This is also a must if you go to Amsterdam!
Anne Frank House
After the house we walked back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. Tom had a long night ahead of him to prepare for Austin, and Ben Supnik had informed us that we were to be the back up unit if the demo machine failed to run X-Plane 10 the next day. Dinner wasn’t anything special for us (fast food, really).
Off to Lelystad…
Sunday came after a long night of little sleep. I was slightly turned around on time, and Tom was on and off working on the X-Plane 10 download to have as backup for Austin. That said, we were excited to get on the train to Lelystad, so the little sleep wasn’t wearing us down. The weather, however, wasn’t the most optimal. Overcast, cold, and sometimes foggy.
It's almost like a scene out of Mary Poppins!
Amsterdam to Lelystad was about a 50 minute train ride. From there it’s another 10 or so minute bus ride to the Aviodrome. The conference started at 10 in the morning, and we arrived shortly after.
The walk along the Lelystad Airport perimeter to Aviodrome
Welcome to the Aviodrome!
Once we arrived and got inside, the line had already been quite long to purchase tickets for the event. We had shown up just 30 minutes after opening, so it was nice to see a relatively large crowd so early. As we were purchasing tickets, the first display we saw was the Aerosoft and X-Plane 10 booth. Austin was busy demoing away for people, showing them the eye candy provided in X-Plane 10.
Austin showing off X-Plane 10
X-Plane 10 in use
Tom and I decided to walk around all of the exhibits to see what people had going on. This place is really quite large, being multiple stories, and a total of three buildings. There were plenty of people to talk to, and lots to see! If you wanted to get away from the simulation side of things you could walk outside and check out the real aircraft on display there ranging from small GA aircraft to a KLM 747. All in all, it’s really a neat place!
Just a small section of the exhibitors
3D effect motion simulator
The setup for the Take Command! series CRJ-200. Javier and Philipp were here!
Some 737 Custom Sim Hardware
The KLM 747 on display
Other aircraft on display
Some more exhibits
Some more exhibits
...and some more
The backside of the Aviodrome
Austin’s X-Plane 10 Presentation
At three in the afternoon Austin held his presentation. It was essentially the first time any of us (including him) had seen X-Plane 10 as one piece. Up until this point the Laminar team and the beta testers had been using only bits of X-Plane 10 for testing specific items. The presentation was held in a rather small room on the opposite side of the Aviodrome building. It was a cozy room, but Austin managed to fill it up to over-capacity. It is without doubt that everyone has their eyes on X-Plane 10, including MSFS users. This was nice to see, as it was just the kind of audience I wanted to watch reaction from.
Unfortunately, Aerosoft’s computer was acting up, and once one of the computers was finally working it happened to be an older system and by no means extremely capable to run X-Plane 10 without very toned down settings. This, added with the off-color wall the projector was casting on, made the presentation of eye candy not look the best. Additionally, Austin is more of an engineer than eye candy person, so his presentation left a lot to be desired to the folks of the Microsoft Flight Sim World. While Austin carried on with talk about flight model, Microsoft people come from a sim full of eye candy. This is where I feel the presentation should have stuck to, but it didn’t. I looked over at Tom Kyler and we were both feeling the same way. It was at this time Tom jumped up and got the MacBook Pro out. It had the latest version of X-Plane 10 on it, has a very “pretty” display, and showed the rendering settings set to extreme levels. This is where many people came to huddle in around the laptop screen with many “Oooo’s and ahhhh’s!”
Now, I have read from various websites about things Austin or Aerosoft stated, and I wanted to make some clarifications here. There’s really two main one’s:
1. There has been a misconception that PMDG (a Microsoft Flight Sim development group) was showing off beta’s of their products in X-Plane. This is not true at all, and what caused this rumor was a statement made by an Aerosoft executive stating that PMDG was provided with a gratis copy of X-Plane 10 in beta form for evaluation. This meant nothing more than they have a copy and are free to check it out if they so choose. Transitioning products like PMDG’s to X-Plane is not and will not be an easy task if and when it ever happens.
2. Somehow people got off on saying that Austin stated X-Plane 10 would essentially ship really buggy. During his presentation the application was freezing up due to “memory issues.” A rumor started about that Austin said X-Plane 10 would ship with this bug. This is NOT true. Austin’s statement was that this would be ironed out by the time the DVD cut was to be made. These memory issues were just a mix of a rather non-optomized X-Plane 10 running on a not so great machine. Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches during live presentations!
This pretty much concluded the day at Aviodrome. After the presentation, I gathered up some of the guys for a photo prior to heading off. Javier Rollon, Tom Kyler, and myself opted to go out to dinner in Lelystad before we headed off to Amsterdam on the train.
Austin, Cameron, Tom, Philipp, Javier
I made plans for Austin to meet Tom and myself in Amsterdam for a night out. Austin is taking some much needed time off after a few years of development to enjoy Europe with his wife and child in tow, and this was a great way to kick off some relaxation time. We started the night out with a walk through the Red Light District. Austin had never seen it before and was curious to see what it was all about. In reality, it’s full of tourists and surreal to see. Add that to your “To Do” list if you go to Amsterdam!
After our little tour of the district we ventured out to find a coffee shop where we could sit, talk, and relax. It’s very hard to find a quiet coffee shop in Amsterdam. Nearly all of them sell Marijuana and are filled with people and smoke to a near unbearable degree (I suppose this is subjective)! We finally found a small shop with only three people in it playing cards, and we figured this would be a great place to have a few drinks before ending our night.
Cameron, Tom, and Austin
Well, we TRIED to get out there without the high, anyhow. Some people just don’t have “high” tolerance…
Austin and Tom
…and with that we concluded our night AND trip.
I walked away from this trip satisfied. The time and effort was worth it if only to see the reactions of enthusiasts from around the world. I will use the knowledge obtained here to drive X-Aviation forward over the next year. Thanks for “coming along” on our journey, and for your continued support!