Dustin Clifford, aka “FRedBaron” AFSBI’s Member 0158, is a Jack of all trades and good at all of them. Musician, pilot, leader maximum of a much-loved and supportive Facebook group for sim enthusiasts, and most of all, incredibly talented craftsman when it comes to all things flight simulator, from programming computers to crafting his own parts. We first met Dustin when he came out to Las Vegas to help us man our booth at FlightSimExpo this year, and we just knew we had to interview him for our profile series. We spoke to him via phone, Skype, email, and Facebook, and this is what he told us.
“I was a professional drummer touring North America with various acts from the late 90’s to 2010. My father and uncle were massive aviation buffs, and in the early 80’s they would fly, (and ultimately), crash their various models of RC aircraft, giving themselves the delightful moniker, “the Wrong Brothers”. When Activision came on the market with the first bi-plane combat offering, of course they were couch dog-fighting before anyone else. I remember the game wasn’t much more than a few square pixels buzzing around some rectangular “clouds”, and the tagline on the box read, “It talks!” to describe the brand new technology of talking video games.”
“From there my uncle progressed, along with the growing tech, till he got to the Fresnel lens and Thrustmaster rudder pedals, throttle, and joystick. The three of us often engaged in round-robin style tourney’s of the “Aces Over the Pacific” masterpiece, trying to beat my CAP kill ratio.”
“After surpassing my self-imposed quota of many years in music, and also during time-off from touring, in late 2003 I was re-acquainted with flight simulators. I started with Flight Sim 2004, and then moved to FSX, starting fresh with just a joystick and a keyboard. I marveled then at how much the genre had grown from what I remembered, and at the appearance of the legendary Pete Dowson’s FSUIPC. It seemed like anything was possible for the home pilot.”
One of the sims-in-the-making
“Fast forward 2018, I now have a journeyman worthy workshop, stocked with table saws, miter saws, drill press, router table, planers and sanders, etc. All the tools necessary for building a respectable simulator enclosure and dashboards. Rounding out the myriad of “toys” are three 3D printers; an FT-5 , followed quickly by the Prusa-style FT-i3, and more recently the Mega i3 model, all from Folgertech. By far, the most influential acquisition on my build technique and design would be the Folgertech Fortis CNC. This makes back-lit and precision cut panels an attainable art form. In turn, having to learn CAD software I chose Fusion360, finding it a very intuitive and well-documented gateway into my first experience with CAD in any form.”
Dustin’s well-equipped woodwork shop
“In the spring of 2015, I started flight training in a late 40’s Aeronca Champ (N1946E) at Aerowood Aviation roughly 20 mins away from my front door at KEQY Monroe Regional Airport, Monroe N.C. Flying once a week (twice on rare occasions). I confess that spins and recoveries were among my favorite maneuvers. Then my first magic solo in the Champ on August 5, 2018. I started on a C172 the very next week. Of course I used my sim extensively, and rehearsed my 50nm x-country solo there. Then a long series of touch & go’s, more maneuvers, and ground school. I have now over 40 hours, 3 night flights. and I am a long x-country, written, and a checkride away from my PPL. I can’t wait!”
“I created the group US FlightSim on Dec 6, 2016, with fellow sim enthusiast Dan Pignataro. Now we have hundreds of members, not huge, but well curated. It was born out of a curiosity of just how popular flight simming was becoming in the U.S. I was very familiar with the popularity of flight sims across Europe and Australia, particularly the Netherlands, and I had always been members of those type of groups. I wanted to be a part of a group based here but open to enthusiasts all over the world.”
“I find the traits of a simulator hobbyist and professional quite fascinating. Part curious DIY-er and part relentless technologist. I think we all share those traits! I try to keep the flow of information moving and encourage all skill levels, and I share what I am learning. My philosophy is : ‘If I can do it….anyone can’!”
“I ask myself this question quite often , the honest answer is yes and no. I think something along the lines of a boutique style offering is more realistic. Once I think I have gotten the technique and work flow down for specific offerings that are of quality (and have gotten a positive response from perspective clients), then I would certainly be open to taking a few orders a month.
But my main focus is to try and keep it fun, continue to learn, to create, and most of all, take the time to fly.”