The Big FlightSimLabs Update We Missed!

Hi all,

it's been quite some time since our last update. That is entirely my fault - I've been so busy with managing development, that I could literally find no time to put a semi-solid (and coherent) update together. I am actually not surprised to see that this is cause for concern for all of you regarding the future of the A320-X: I'd like to assure you that there is no reason for concern, and I'll explain why:

In the past months since we started our beta team selection process (and how overwhelming that was! we received many hundreds of requests in a few short days), we have been diligently working towards completing the product, but as you can so clearly tell, we ran into some delays. We are aware that this is something you already know, but today I'll actually give some more detailed information of the reasons behind the delays, which are primarily two-fold:

1) The Flight Management Computer System.

Our previous endeavor, the Concorde-X, was a mostly analogue aircraft. Sure, there were tons of dials and gauges, but those are mostly mechanical and the computer logic behind them is of the 'if-then-else' variety. The complexity of its systems was largely found in the early versions of Fly-By-Wire and autopilot logic, however the bulk of the difficulties we faced with the Concorde-X had to do with hacking into FSX to ensure the flight dynamics were correct at supersonic speeds, plus the fuel balancing logic that the virtual flight engineer has to deal with, since, contrary to the real aircraft (with its three-person flight deck), the simulator is usually flown by a single person and the workload would be too high otherwise. On top of this, because of, and thanks to the good folks at SimuFly, we did not have to write one of the complex systems on the Concorde-X at all, but simply use an existing one: the CIVA INS. This predecessor of today's modern flight management systems was already available in the market, so all we had to do was integrate it - the time savings were very considerable!

In the A320-X, the entire Flight Management Computer System (FMGS) had to be developed from scratch. As many of you know if you've had the opportunity to read any of the manufacturer's manuals, the FMGS is one of the least documented systems in the entire aircraft - not coincidentally, because its technologies are used by other aircraft manufacturers as well, so its secrets are very closely guarded. This, tied together with our continued desire to be as close to real as possible (no 'corner cutting' so to speak), meant we needed to work backwards from the documentation that actually does exist out there - and that is the ARINC 424 source database with the documentation that comes along with it. As such, we chose not to go down the expected path that most of our competitors follow (i.e. a subset of the leg types which would not be extensible in the future), but do it properly, designing and developing what is there as correctly as possible. This, of course, inevitably meant that we misjudged its complexity. Our initial expectations of "a few months of development", tied together with a couple misfires in design and development approach (bound to happen when documentation is so lacking), meant we were led back to the drawing board more than once, thus falling behind on our target dates. We know - this is truly frustrating to you. I am quite sure though that you understand it's even more frustrating to us: We cannot wait to show you the quality level of our lateral/vertical management and flight plan predictions now, when compared to the real aircraft (and in some cases, how equally incorrect they are, in both ours and the real thing). We are not quite finished yet, but we are now happy with the progress we've been making and our alpha testers will very soon be able to have a version in their hands which (had they not been gagged by our NDA) they would be itching to show you.

2) The electrics and wiring network.

Late last summer we elected to improve the aircraft electrical system significantly. The details for this are purely technical and don't lend themselves to be described in this update, but it was a necessary step to take so that we could ensure there would be no need to change the networking code any time soon to allow for a professional level simulation (i.e. Prepar3D). This was a difficult decision as it meant pushing our release schedule even further into the future, but it was also a necessary one because it would allow extended features to be supported in our professional product line. In fact, most of you have probably seen me give a speech on how detailed the old version was - the improved one is even more so, but with detail comes complexity and we needed to make those improvements to ensure the system would be robust and stable in the years to come.
This work has since been completed and we're done with its integration. Sure, there are going to be small bugs to be ironed out during beta, but we are very happy with the underlying implementation and confident that the almost 24,000 wire connections that we've routed into the product are correctly placed (no, we can't reveal how or why, I am sure our competitors would love to know!). In fact, we were done with this rework in end-January, but we could not be 100% certain until all the system computers and components were in place and running properly.

More good news:

While this development (and the ensuing struggles) has been on-going, the graphics team has been hard at work with getting visuals fine-tuned. While any images (and videos) we publish before the product is released are considered "work in progress", we have declared our external model and virtual cockpit "code-complete" and all the work that's been going into them is bug-fixing and improvements.

Also, the delays in the FMGS and the electrics rework gave our alpha team an opportunity to hand-fly the aircraft in all manual modes and fine-tune its behaviour to a level that (I am told) is far beyond what's expected in entertainment sim products, in fact it's comparable with (or surpasses) professional-grade simulations (but I am not going to repeat this - so please keep it in confidence :) ).

The road ahead:

We know most of you would love to see some concrete dates when we plan to have the A320-X in your hands. For reasons I've stated many times before, we will not do this, however we have set internal deadlines that we're trying very hard to keep, in order for our product to enter beta phase. What I can say now is that we've not only NOT given up on the A320-X, but in fact we've been working 12-14 hour days for quite some time to get it done. You have heard me promise before (and it's a promise I intend to keep at all costs) that I will publicly announce when the beta process starts. Until then, we've started making some promotional videos to wet your appetite and allow you to see (a little bit at a time) what we're working so hard to deliver. We know it's not enough (it's NEVER enough!) but we hope that you will accept the first one together with our apologies for our delay and our heartfelt thanks for the continued support you keep showing us all this time!