FlightSimExpo is one more of the anticipated events in the flight simulation community this year. The conference will take place on June 9-10, 2018 at Flamingo Las Vegas Resort with some of the biggest names the industry attending the show. We spoke to the event organisers, Evan Reiter and Phil Coyle, to find out more.
Hi Evan and Phil. Thank you for speaking to us about FlightSimExpo 2018. Can you start off by giving us a bit of a background on the event and why did you decide to set it up?
FlightSimExpo is a new flight simulation conference created by and for the simulation community. The industry is huge in North America—for many developers, including some of the European-based ones, the United States is the largest market by dollar value. An event like FlightSimExpo allows simmers in North America and from around the world to explore their passion for simulation, and for real-world pilots to get a better idea of how simulation can help them.
As you probably know, we’ve launched this initial version of the event in Las Vegas based entirely on feedback from flight simulation developers. However, FlightSimExpo’s goal is to bring flight simulation conferences to cities across the United States.
Can you tell us a bit about the people behind organising the show? What are their backgrounds in relation to flight simulation?
Everyone involved in planning the event is a long-time member of the flight simulation community. Evan got into simming in 2006, well before he was flying airplanes. Phil was around in the pre-FSX days.
We’re proud to be working with a team of volunteers from the online aviation community. All of us are big into simulation and real-world flying. Two of our team currently work for the airlines, and Phil is a private pilot.
What has the feedback been like from the flight simulation community and do you know how many visitors will be attending?
Feedback has been incredible; the interest thus far in the event has absolutely exceeded our expectations. Here we are, two months before the event, with 39 confirmed exhibitors and 25 sponsors!
We’re excited that several companies have chosen FlightSimExpo as their first show appearance in North America: 1C Game Studios, Aerofly FS2, Flightbeam Studios, Flight Velocity, FlyJSim, FSDreamTeam, FSReborn, The Jet Sim, Navigraph, just to name a few. It’s exciting to see how much support simulation in North America has, especially from exhibitors travelling from Europe, Australia, and beyond.
On the attendee side, we first estimated we might get to 500-700 people (thankfully most sponsors saw past the word “might”). With two months to go, we’re already inside that range, and it’s looking increasingly like we will exceed it. Support from the community, media partners like PC Pilot, and the developers has been essential to this early success.
What were the reasons for hosting the show in Vegas?
When founding FlightSimExpo, we wanted to create a conference that was for the community, by the community. Our role as co-owners is enablement: we want to listen to the developers and attendees and develop events that they want to see.
Last summer, as we were debating whether to set up an event like this, we emailed top names in at-home simulation to ask where and when they would like to host a conference. Las Vegas, on June 9-10, came out as a top choice. For exhibitors, especially people travelling from Europe, Vegas offered an opportunity to make the business trip into a vacation. Especially in past years, Las Vegas has become increasingly family-friendly, there’s a ton to do before and after the conference, and it’s such an easy place to get to, from anywhere in the world. For exhibitors, it seemed to make sense—and for us, it was important to deliver an event that met their wishes.
What were the main challenges in setting the show up?
Our biggest challenge has been starting a new event, new company, and new idea in one of the largest entertainment centers in the world. You need to make a lot of assumptions in the beginning: how many hotel rooms is enough? How much space do you need? How do we balance the cost of hosting an event in a major city with the requirement to keep exhibitor and attendee prices affordable? Having top-tier aviation and simulation developers as partners in this effort was invaluable. We were able to really lean on the community as we were planning numbers and budgeting for something that would work.
As for exhibitors and developers, can you tell us who will be at the event and can you share with us any information on what will be on display, i.e. new products, etc?
We’re proud to be welcoming developers from around the world to this event! We’ll be starting the event with a session designed to showcase the latest developments in simulation. Eight developers will each have 5 minutes to talk about a new release they have upcoming, so we can expect announcements from FSDreamTeam, Infinite Flight, Mindstar Aviation, Nimbus Simulation Studios, PilotEdge, The Jet Sim, and Thrustmaster. And yes, we’ll make sure the “get off the stage” music starts playing right at the 5 minute mark!
One of the biggest announcements people should be looking at is coming from PMDG. At 3pm on Saturday, June 9, Robert S. Randazzo of PMDG will be unveiling a new product line that has been in planning and development since 2008 but has never as yet been announced to the public.
We’re not at liberty to share all the details, but can say that we’re hearing about a lot of really exciting displays and setups that people will be able to take part in. As to exhibitors, it would probably take up too much space to provide the full list! At the time of writing, we have 39 confirmed exhibitors, and plenty more flight simulation organizations that are either sponsors or who will be attending. I would encourage prospective attendees to visit www.flightsimexpo.com or like us on Facebook to see the latest information, as we are (still!) adding exhibitors.
The latest press release mentioned the event will host several talks and panel discussions. Can you give us the highlights on the topics being covered?
Seminars and panel discussions will be happening throughout the weekend. You’ll see education-oriented sessions, discussions about careers and real-world aviation, and of course, tips and tricks for your own setup. Our speaker list includes a panel of Twitch streamers, CFII Jason Miller, Captain John Cox, home cockpit builders Matt Ford and Tom Gauvin, FAA air traffic controllers Derek Vento and Bradley Tice, and more. The full list, and our schedule, is all available online.
The latest news update, mentioned ‘The Squawkbox’. Can you explain to us what this is?
We’re very excited about this! During our Call For Speakers, we had a number of people who reached out wanting more direct, one-on-one opportunities to connect with experts. It’s great to hear an expert talk about scenery design, but it’s another thing entirely to be able to walk up to Holger from Orbx and ask about geodata processing, or learn right from Bill Womack about how to port an airport to X-Plane.
Attendees will find The Squawkbox on the exhibit floor, just outside the conference room. We’ll have these experts doing one-hour stints in the booth throughout the weekend. It’s a great chance to ask directly about freeware (David Waldron), multiplayer and shared cockpit (Dave Hodges), avionics (Ken Smith), cockpit building (Matt and Tom), streaming (jonfly), and much more.
Are there any activities that visitors can do outside FlightSimExpo?
Of course, all the typical Las Vegas activities are all around us, as Flamingo Las Vegas Resort is located in the absolute center of the Strip! World-class shopping, great buffets, gaming, nightlife…okay, we all know about that. But perhaps you didn’t know that two hotels have roller coasters…inside them! Just behind Flamingo, there’s a giant observation wheel that takes people on a 30-minute aerial tour of the Strip. West coasters will be pleased to know there’s an In’N’Out less than a minute outside the Flamingo’s doors.
The Flamingo is a great spot for families, having one of the best pools on the Strip, and a 15-acre Caribbean-style habitat inside the hotel. For FlightSimExpo attendees, we’ve offered discounts on helicopter tours of the Strip or Grand Canyon and indoor skydiving. Within easy driving distance, you have the Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, lots of hiking, and even ziplining. You certainly don’t have to be into gambling to have a good time…a lot of attendees are planning to stay a few days after the event to take on some of the other activities in the area. Our website has a full list of nearby attractions and some of the discounts we’ve been able to establish for attendees of the conference. And with a room rate of $59/night (plus tax), why not stay a few extra days?
If somebody was in two minds about attending FlightSimExpo, what would you say to them to persuade them to come to the event?
There’s something special, unique, maybe even magical about getting together with simmers and aviation enthusiasts. We’re all into the same thing, and the event is still small enough that it’s so easy to make friends. If you’re already part of an online community, being able to meet those you’ve known for years online is a great experience.
And if you’re attending the event on your own, you’ll find it’s so easy to make friends. Between the seminars, activities on the floor, the event social, and our networking app Whova, you’ll be meeting simmers from your local area, swapping stories with virtual pilots and controllers, and wondering how the weekend went by so quickly! We intentionally aren’t planning a big event dinner because we know that by Saturday afternoon, everyone will be wanting to hang with their (new) friends.
Are there any special discounts or offers for visitors?
Yes! We’re happy to be working with great organizations to offer some really exciting opportunities and discounts. We’re offering chances to tour Nellis Air Force Base on the Friday before the event! Attendees will have the chance to win these two experiences by completing a survey this week. Confirmed attendees should check their email for a survey link for their chance to win.
You can save upwards of $100 on helicopter tours of the Las Vegas Strip and the Grand Canyon. The best offer is probably the Las Vegas Night Strip Flight Tour, 15 minutes in a helicopter over the strip for just $99. For attendees who have been thinking about flying a full-motion simulator, we’ve negotiated more than $300 off a real-world Boeing 737NG sim. Attendees can split the time with up to 4 people! Finally, you can save $25 on the “Learn to Fly” package at Vegas Indoor Skydiving.
For attendees flying from or through Canada, we’ve also negotiated up to 15% off airfare with WestJet Airlines using a special discount.
For information, links, and discount codes, visit www.flightsimexpo.com.
What are your long-term objectives and how do you see the event developing in the future?
We want to use FlightSimExpo to bring conferences to cities across the United States, and we plan to do that with the support and guidance of the community. As this year’s event approaches, we’ll be asking developers and attendees where they would like to see FlightSimExpo 2019.
Next year’s venue and host city will be determined by this year’s participants. It’s the first time we know of a flight simulation event of this size has allowed its participants to establish the location, and we’re really looking forward to seeing where the community wants us to head next year!
Finally, what do you personally look forward to the most during FlightSimExpo?
Do we have to pick just one thing? In general, we’re most looking forward to walking out onto the show floor on Saturday morning, seeing for the first time what the exhibitors have to offer, and sharing that experience with more than 500 others. We’ve been in the venue when it was empty, and can’t wait to see that same space when it’s full of VR gear, 4K monitors, and simmers!
Evan and Phil, thanks for taking the time to speak to us and we wish you all the best with the event. For more information on FlightSimExpo, visit: wwwflightsimexpo.com
The following images are from the Flamingo Las Vegas Resort where FlightSimExpo 2018 will take place.