Maybe not your everyday's title when reading an aviation column in a largely US centered publication. On the other hand, who doesn't have some or other fantasy with the word 'Paris'? Not only is it still one of the most wonderful and special cities in the world, it is also home to a lot of aviation history! And although Let's Go Flying may be focusing on getting NEW people to fly, it all started with 'them old folks' way back when. They not only invented these 'flying machines' - and they were exactly that! - but they also had the incredible courage of mounting them and taking off where nobody had ever gone before...... up into the sky !
(Maybe) fortunately that is not how things go anymore. Nowadays you typically go to a small airfield, enter the flying school and start taking lessons, maybe after a trial lesson. And those lessons are done in perfectly safe and thoroughly tested aircraft, with well trained instructors, in a very much regulated world of aviation, technology and science.
So what has Paris to do with all that, except for the fact that Blériot must have left many footsteps on its sidewalks?
Well, for one they have an awesome aviation museum, situated ON the old Le Bourget airfield. The same place where history was made almost 100 years ago. It shows you each and every step that aviation has made, from the very feeble hot air balloons of Montgolfier, through the Blériot and Wright brothers age flying machines, through 50-60 era jets, airliners and all the way up to the Ariane space rockets and associated satellites!
But there's more, and that's what I am writing about today. Already since a few years Paris has its own 'simulation show', maybe modeled after a very famous Dutch Flightsim Weekend that already exists for more than 20 years in my little country. This year was the first time I attended in Paris, and the 6th time they held the 'Mondial de la Simulation 2011' (or the World Simulation Event) at the Musée de l'Air et Espace . This year was also the first time the museum organized it themselves.
The idea of this 3 day event is to get people in touch with aviation. And what better way to do it than through the simulated flying (and driving), because let's face it; playing games is what we humans still do and like best ! Not only are we good at playing games, and simulating reality is 'playing' in one way or other, we are also not very rich. Generally speaking. So especially outside the US the cost of flying, or even thinking about it, is prohibitive!
That's where simulation comes in. Yes, many people never get BEYOND simulation. They buy, run, play, use and build their PC Flight Simulator, or maybe even their home cockpit, and that's it. They fly!
Others however use this particular form of playing to get in touch with aviation, and continue from there. They 'get their interest' from the simulator, or as is the case with these sort of events; from the community occupying itself with it !
When you walk around events like these, with aircraft sounds screaming from every booth, wide eyed boys clenching plastic yokes and sticks, wrenching Spitfires and Rafales through the monitor sky in front of them, with fathers bending over and behind intricately soldered cockpit panels with colored lights flashing everywhere and with presentations by professional looking 'hobby companies' showing some incredibly advanced technology...... you know that 'aviation' is NOT just what takes place on the green lawn in front of the FBO or club house.
Aviation, my dear friends, takes place in the hearts and souls of boys and men, of girls and women, all 'aviators' one way or other! It helps to be rich, but it is not necessary. And it is fun to be able to fly for real, but not the end of the world if you can't, either!
I would encourage the Aviation Industry and the (real) Aviation Community to take note of the ever-increasing technology advance not only in the 'real' world, but also in the virtual world. Today there are way more Simpilots than real ones, and many of them, especially the young ones, could well end up in the real aviation industry, either as pilot or something else.
This year in Paris there were a lot of 'associated' booths of organizations who have understood that message. The French Air Force was there in numbers, the aviation department of the 'Gendarmes' (state police) too. As were many other real-world organizations, showing their services AND showing how THEY use simulation in one way or other for training of their staff and customers!
For sure an example that deserves following!