Takeflight Interactive is a new company which offers simulated flight lessons in well-organized packages. It leverages existing simulation software such as P3D and, soon, X-Plane. We caught up with CEO Brandon Seltz, AFSBI’s member 3283, and asked him about him and his company’s offerings.
Q. So, let’s start with your background. How did you get to this?
A. I grew up flying simulation games! I feel like I was born into the perfect generation because, as soon as these video games were available on the market, I was about old enough to start consuming them. And so, I did.
I loved it so much so that I ended up as a game designer at Microsoft on Microsoft’s Flight Simulator. Around that same time, I went to get my pilot’s license. When I took off for the first time, I looked out over the wing and thought: Oh my gosh! I have done this a million times.
To make a long story short: I got all the way through my private pilot training in minimum time at minimum cost. As a result, I just wondered why the industry doesn’t use basic simulation for primary flight training. It quickly became apparent that the legacy simulation was missing a major component and that was the ability for those simulators to not just facilitate training but deliver the training in an engaging and effective way.
With my game design background, I thought of a more effective use of simulation. This showed me a picture of how simulation could be better utilized by programming in the flight training itself and have a user to be able to see their performance by being scored objectively so that they know that they’re doing it right. This approach really creates a guided training experience on the simulator.
I’ve been working on that concept ever since the day Microsoft canceled Flight Simulator. Later, I went to work for Redbird Flight Simulations where we started applying game design concepts to real-world training curricula and helped develop their GIFT (Guided Independent Flight Training) program. After leaving Redbird we started TakeFlight Interactive. And from there we developed a kind of a clean-slate AI “Virtual Flight Instructor” that’s easy to use.
Q. I saw you listed as one of EAA’s partners?
A. We were showing TakeFlight at AirVenture, and EAA saw that it could benefit many of their existing programs such as the Young Eagles Program. To support their efforts, we took the initial set of our private pilot maneuvers and we customized those for the Young Eagles demographic. EAA has created a superhero character called Aviore and we use his voice as their flight instructor, things like that.
Q. Tell us about your technology.
A. So one of the things that we did when we started developing a new platform was to make sure that it is simulator agnostic, meaning that it could run on any simulator platform out there. Currently, we are compatible with Microsoft FSX and Lockheed Prepar3D (P3D) and we are working toward X-Plane compatibility as well. Our intended capability is to be able to run on the larger proprietary hardware as well, so into the full flight simulator class.
Q. Do you have a demo?
A. We are working on a demo video that goes through the product and shows how it works and gives you some examples of maneuvers.
Q. About the training, where does it start?
A. The training content that we have really starts out at square one. Anyone can sit down and use it. The first scenario is an intro flight that really shows what the controls do and how they affect the airplane.
And from there we start into more standard maneuvers like straight and level where it’s all about trimming at various airspeed, climb and descent, controlling your airspeed with power and pitch, trimming off control pressure. Then it continues on, from level to turns, normal takeoffs and landings, crosswind takeoff and landing traffic patterns, slow flight, steep turns, etc. We are working on the whole Private Pilot curriculum.
Q. Is it already available?
A. The first 13 flight maneuvers are out and currently we’re working on the next set. We’re releasing it in stages.
Q. Money wise, how much will it set me back?
A. It’s basically five [US] dollars a lesson right now. They come in packs of six, so each pack is 30 dollars.
A. You just download our software, and install it just like any other desktop application. It does require either FSX or P3D. If you use Prepar3D, then you’ll need to get A2A’s great Cessna 172 since there isn’t a native Cessna 172 in P3D.
Q. Who is helping with the instructional part of the training course?
A. We have a Gold Seal flight instructor on staff here and he acts as subject matter expert and instructional designer and so we make sure that everything we do gets his “gold seal” of approval. We also work with a local partner flight school. So anything that gets released to the public is tested and verified first. Finally, we make sure to get plenty of feedback from actual CFIs.
Q. What’s in store for the future?
A. We’re working on the Private Pilot product now. We will work our way up the FAA stack, assuming people will be working on instrument pilot after their private ticket and so on. Then we will do commercial pilot. There is also strong demand for ATP prep, you know, plus transitioning to various aircraft such as regional airliners and Boeing and Airbus equipment. There is a huge need in the military for this type of thing as well. And so really in any type of aviation, there is a need for effective training and flight performance rating, which our software does as well.
Many people look at our technology as kind of the missing link in simulation training. You can think of our technology as kind of an overlay that works together with your simulator. You select the maneuver you’d like to fly, select the version of the scenario or challenge and the system launches your sim and pre-positions the airplane ready to fly the lesson. And when you’re done you get your score, you can try again or exit. It’s as simple as that.
Q. Do you have ATC?
A. Not yet, but we would like to partner with someone like Keith Smith at PilotEdge once we get more in the cross country section of the Private Pilot and on onto instrument flying.