Today, Aerosoft's latest project OnAir: Airline Manager entered pubic beta.
A couple of days ago, I managed to catch up with Mathijs Kok from Aerosoft to ask him for an insight on this new product and here are the details:
MH You hinted you have been developing this program for 21 years, that is a very long development life cycle, so how did you keep the impetus going? Has emerging technologies shaped or changed the direction of the program?
MK: Lol… We have not actively worked on it for 21 years. But back when my hair was still a different colour Antoine and I spend a lot of time thinking about a way to give flight simmer's a ‘reason’ to fly. But we never were able to complete it because the technology was not there. It needs internet, easy to use databases, smartphones and a mature flight sim community. Unknown to me, Antoine kept working on it and in the last year spend a good deal of the resources of his small company to make it happen. It’s still very much the same as we thought it out back then, it’s just far more complex and complete.
MH: You mention 'airline' Is this a cargo only simulation, or does it include passenger transport?
MK: OnAir: Airline Manager is a ‘world’. A virtual world where all the users compete for resources and jobs to make their airline grow. It’s all done in real time, real time weather and you will see real world event playing as part. You start with a modest capital, buy or lease a small aircraft, hire a pilot and find a job. A job can be moving goods, passengers (though you first need a license for that) or something else. The aircraft, staff and jobs are all priced realistically, and prices fluctuate per region or period. Try finding a fresh cabin crew in high summer.
When you have the aircraft, pilot and job, you can either fly the flight in FSX, FS2004, P3D, or X-Plane, and soon the new Microsoft Flight simulator. But if you are not a flight simmer, you can also have the bots fly the flight. While designed to be used with a simulator it is actually optional!
But flying is just one thing you can do. You could actually focus completely on running FBO’s and sell fuel, parking and maintenance to other users. Or scout the jobs market and pick out all the well paying jobs and offer them to other users. There are probably things possible we have not even considered. As said it is a world where we designed the rules but leave it very much up to the user how to behave.
MH: What additional software (if any) is required to act out the scenarios created in the game?
MK: Nothing. The local client software connects to the sim, the OnAir server, some other servers to get weather (it’s all real weather)
MK: Can you pause flights in the simulator and resume later?
MK: Absolutely. Could be that that comes at a slight cost, but the software picks up when the sim is restarted.
MH: Would there be any performance impact (of the flight simulator) when running OnAir alongside a simulator?
MK: None. The client is light on resources and basically dormant if you don’t use it. There is no part that runs inside the sim. The dev's worked really hard on avoiding that. Our sims are complex enough.
MH: Will OnAir interact with virtual air traffic e.g VATSIM ?
MK: No, but if you want to fly with VATSIM that is of course possible. OnAir is 100% transparent to any add-on. Just keep in mind that if you fly a 737 you need two pilots and a cabin crew and that it costs a bloody fortune to maintain (here is a tip, lease the aircraft and end the lease just before the next big maintenance). The realism of the simulation will more or less demand you increase your management skill levels as you go along. I spend the first 10 hours in an A2A Cessna, then bought another single turbine aircraft to use next to that (I fly the Cessna, a bot flies the other aircraft) and just now have leased a Twin Otter (OnAir found that installed on my P3D and suggested it). I also intend to move my operations from southern France to Scandinavia, but that comes with serious costs. Relocating staff, closing my EFB and starting a new one etc.
We very much are looking forward to see how people will use the software. For example it is very hard to grow on your own, you need to corporate with other users, we see great opportunities for VA’s to work in this world.
MH: You describe this as a massively multiplayer online persistent program, will it be fully scalable? as potentially there could be thousands of concurrent users. Will it require multiple servers worldwide? that is quite an investment.
MK: These days scalable servers are easy to find but indeed it comes at a cost. This is by no means a project we think will be a big source of revenue but it will have to pay for itself, so a monthly fee is asked. Btw there is no such thing as a concurrent user. As it is real time the simulation is not stopped when you are not online. You still must pay parking for your aircraft and salaries to your staff! You can pause the game though.
MH: Finally, Mathijs, when will OnAir be hitting consumer screens? Are you going to run a public beta?
MK: It will go live on November 2nd (during the FS Weekend in Lelystad will we officially launch) but it will be open for testers in a bit. These users have full access (we’ll ask them to limit flights to Western Europe) and their airlines will be fully intact in the real game. A great way to get a head start on the competition.
The public beta is now live and for more information on OnAir, please visit the forum page here:
Learn more about OnAir Airline Manager here: https://www.onair.company
Find out more about the Early Access here: https://www.onair.company/news/EA1
Or directly download the client here: https://www.onair.company/download/publish.htm
Now if you excuse me, I got some artists to fly from Paris to Rotterdam. They will perform at a festival this weekend so this is a time sensitive job. After that the aircraft needs to be flown to Lelystad airport for a service.
MH: Mathijs, thank you for your time.