December 8, 2008

Virtual Air Show 2008

The professional air show performers take a break during the winter, and that’s when virtual pilots have a chance to steal the spotlight.

The Virtual Festival of Aerobatic Teams (VFAT) is an air show much like you might see at a military base near your home town, except the airplanes only exist in cyberspace. The air show pilots are seated at their home flight simulators and fly in formation via high-speed internet connections.

At an actual air show, you watch the jets from the ground, but in this simulated world, your vantage point can suspend high in the air as a formation flies past you, or fly along side the planes. The virtual Blue Angels and virtual Thunderbirds closely mimic the maneuvers, choreography, music, and even the announcer’s spiel of their real-world counterparts.

The whole event will broadcast live on the VFAT website throughout December 12, 13 and 14, 2008.

Virtual Festival of Aerobatic Teams 2008 Promo from Nathan Truninger on Vimeo.

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SimHQ recently published an interview with “Rhino” the lead pilot of the Virtual Blue Angels. He describes the team’s rigorous practice schedule. The SimHQ interviewer “20mm” didn’t ask “Rhino” why everyone feels the need to have Top Gun nicknames….sorry callsigns, whatever.

Virtual Blue Angels Rollin' Skyhawks from Bob Tyler on Vimeo.

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A noteworthy point is the international aspect of the show. 28 teams from Europe, North America, Russia/Eastern Europe, South America and Asia will participate in the 2008 event. The teams vary in their skill levels and quality of performance. These are video clips from the 2007 event. The website seems to currently work better with the Mozilla Firefox browser. Internet Explorer users will need to scroll around to find the links.

Parts of the show may seem a bit laborious compared to TV sporting events, but keep in mind much of the commercial entertainment we enjoy today has been perfected for decades. Who knows how virtual aviation entertainment will mature in the future. The VFAT forum reports there were 4000 spectators watching the online air show last year, and they expect 10,000 spectators this year. If the virtual pilots can capture the attention of that volume of people, I think there’s some real potential and momentum there.

BONUS: No Bette Midler songs during the show (sorry Oshkosh)

Thanks to Aaron Florkowski for his contributions to this article.

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