What brought Eric and Carl Together To Create FTS?
In 2005, Carl had just finished selling his previous company to a major leading silicon valley technology company. This allowed him to purchase a much anticipated Cirrus aircraft. Once purchased, Carl was enjoying life, as most new aircraft owners do. He aggressively achieved an instrument rating and then focused on logging hours in his new Cirrus. One day while taxiing for fuel he noticed another Cirrus. There were not many Cirrus aircraft around in those days, so he enquired about the owner and it was Eric. Their meeting would be the start of a wonderful marriage of two minds passionate about simulation and safe flying.
At the time Carl met Eric, Eric was working on his instrument rating. This was perfect as Carl needed post license practice and so it was natural that they should fly together, acting as safety pilot in turn visiting every greasy-spoon breakfast place in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Eric finally achieved his instrument rating and they continued to fly, lamenting Cirrus accidents and mishaps. Carl and Eric surmised that one major contributor to the many accidents they had researched might be that accident victim pilots were unfamiliar with, and overloaded with the complexities of their avionics. This led to the birth of FlyThisSim and their remarkable SimAvio flight simulation framework.
The limitation of the simulators at the time
In the middle of the first decade of the new millenium, the only available training aides were the Garmin 430 simulator, Microsoft Flight Simulator, X-Plane and some computer based training from Cirrus. They seemed inadequate to train new pilots to fly real world operations.
Carl researched current (at the time) FAA approved simulators. What he found was very expensive and only available in a few training schools spread out around the country. There were no Cirrus-specific simulators available. Soon they got to know that AATD and BATD manufacturers used real aircraft avionics in their Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA) simulators. These companies had very limited software resources that made them entirely dependent on X-Plane or Microsoft Flight Sim.
The use of aircraft equipment and the cost of interfacing them into these simulators meant high prices and limited variance in aircraft types.
Developed our 1st Garmin unit software
Carl reached for his compiler and started to program OpenGL graphics. Before long he created an attitude indicator with accurate performance and function. Next up was to create a software emulation of Avidyne's Integra units then selling the completed software to simulator manufacturers that were currently using hardware based avionics. Initially, the intense GPS programming work would still be done using aircraft modified GNS 430’s, which made it costly, time intensive, but at least got the ball rolling.
Fast forward two years, the FTS 430W was working (FTS’s version of the Garmin GNS-430W) and the FlyThisSim team was well on the way to creating the Garmin G1000 simulated panel. Throughout this time they were supported by other simulator manufacturers who bought multiple copies of the company's SimAVIO (Simulated Avionics) licenses. SimAVIO bacame the company's flagship simulation software product and continues to be in use today with SimAVIO version three on its way to market by third quarter 2017.
Touch Screen solution is not FAA approved
With an industry battered by high priced flight simulators, FlyThisSim’s software and interface substituted for the real equipment. The FTS team decided it was time to get rid of high cost expensive hardware avionics. Touch screen video monitors have been around for over 30 years and the engineers at FlyThisSim decided that using touch screen technology would be a fantastic solution to flight simulation instrumentation limitations. With advanced touch panel screen technology, FlyThisSim could now deliver a flight simulator offering multiple interchangable aircraft specific cockpits that run on one piece of hardware. This would allow a user to fly a Cessna 172 steam guage and then land, click a few buttons and take off again in a Mooney.
The team presented the thought of the touch panel idea to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and they were immediately shot down and asked to reference an advisory circular: AC 61-136. AC 61-136 provides information on flight simulation devices and what is acceptable and not. The AC stated that no keyboards, mice or other computer input devices could be used to create an FAA approved BATD flight simulator. The FAA stated that a touchscreen monitor is a computer input device and therefore, not allowed. The FTS team was invited to return to the FAA when "there are touchscreens in an aircraft”. Sadly and with tail between legs, the FTS engineering team left Washington not achieving their goal, to certify a touch screen BATD flight simulator.
SimAVIO licenses delivered to simulator enthusiasts and multiple research establishments including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( NASA )
Eric started to sell the newly developed SimAVIO generation one software online. Within a very short amount of time, FlyThisSim was able to sell and ship out over 4,000 SimAVIO licenses. These SimAvio licenses were delivered to simulator enthusiasts, pilots, instructors and multiple research establishments including NASA, the United States Air Force, NRL, University of Texas, and University of Darmstadt.
Carl was a big Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) fan and also a member of the group dedicated to the goals of the organization and what they stand behind. FTS sold a few licenses to COPA members after some great buzz on COPA forums championed by long time advocate, John Ylinen. Feedback was that members wanted a product, not a kit. Members wanted a tool that made them better pilots, more proficient with their avionics systems, and more ready to handle emergencies. FlyThisSim was an ideal solution for those very needs. Today, we are honored to be the chosen simulation company in use by COPA and several other airframe based organizations.
We also support these organizations and suggest all active pilots and aviation enthusiasts to join these wonderful groups. For more information and to join COPA and any other aviation related membership, please contact your FTS sales manager. They will be happy to help you become a member pro-bono.
Getting approved by FAA
To make the all the components into more of a product FlyThisSim decided to create a physical base unit to resemble a cockpit and to support a mounted component setup. Before Carl and Eric started this project however, Garmin announced their much anticipated Garmin G3000 advanced general aviation instrument system and to a much anxious FlyThisSim engineering team, Garmin announced that the G3000 was to use touchscreens.
The FAA representative responsible for ATD approvals said he could not get the FlyThisSim flight simulator, now called the TouchTrainer, an FAA approval, but he was able to get the FlyThisSim engineering team an audience within the FAA. This wonderful individual proved to be a wonderful advocate for the advancement of simulation technology and its acceptance in general aviation and FTS is grateful to his and the FAA's innovative assistance and support.
After a wonderful but stressful presentation and demo at the FAA headquarters in Washington DC, the FAA members present asked what deviations from the requirements (defined by AC 61-136) we needed, and asked the FTS team to officially submit them to the FAA. The FAA honorously offered the FTS simulator an approval and thanks to the wonderful men and women who work hard to keep our skies and airspace safe at the FAA, FlyThisSim was officially born!
Jan 2012 Onwards
Building the very first TouchTrainer in a garage
Carl and Eric produced the prototypes for FAA evaluation in their homes. Once they had FAA Approval they started to develop and evolve the TouchTrainer technology and simulators for sales to the market. Carl designed the changes and Eric assembled them in his make-shift production facility located in the garage of his San Luis Obispo home. About this time they employed their first employee, Chris (Now operations director), an aerospace engineer grad from Cal Poly to help them make TouchTrainers. The rest is history. FTS shipped a whopping 200 TouchTrainers in 2015.
This system is probably system number 7 or 8 and one of the first ones with a base on which all the other equipment was mounted. Back in Eric’s garage the startup began constructing simulators for an increasing number of customers that wanted a FlyThisSim TouchTrainer now that the FAA had honored the company with a pending ATD approval.