Back to Live

Air-Child, my favourite virtual airline, is back. Well of course it has never been away completely, but during the past two years, the number of active pilots constantly decreased, and also the number of recorded flights was subject to an adverse trend. The founders didn't find the time to work on the website and the backend, and neglected communication to and with their piloting community. And so Air-Child became a dying community. Even I did secretly glance around for alternatives, started my own business in FSEconomy. Now Air-Child got all the chances to experience a second spring – with a brand new management taking over, bringing fresh energy, new, modern software and reforging the ties to and within the community. Now it's up to us pilots making sure the venture continues – let's jump into our cockpits and raise some funds for UNICEF!

Beginning of January, preparations started to hand over Air-Child to a new management team. Now, beginning of February, the hand-over is done – but that's just where all the work begins. Of course pilots are expecting quickly visible progress; however there's a lot to be done on the backend first. The software is mostly a custom development, dating back up to ten years. Plenty of activities have now been launched in parallel – the most visible change is perhaps the bulletin board: it has already been upgraded to a more recent version (probably the only part of the Website using an off-the-shelf solution), and projects have been launched to provide some basic FSEconomy support and a new ACARS system.

My own contributions will focus on FSEconomy (short-term) and ensuring X-Plane support also in the future. Concerning FSEconomy, a new group has been created inside the FSEconomy universe (look for Air Child VA). To better support our business model, I launched the development of a web application, helping us to do remuneration calculations and the like. Later on, we might opt to integrate some economic mechanisms into Air-Child itself; but for the time being, FSEconomy is for us the most simple, least headache solution.

Ensuring X-Plane support is the more complex venture: with X-Plane 11, a new major release just lurks right at our doorstep. So far with the beta versions published by Laminar, XACARS still seems to work. However, development has become very silent around XACARS, so it's merely a matter of time until it could break (again). In this situation, it seems quite appealing to build an ACARS client with better integration into the booking system of Air-Child. Yet the good old Python interface by Sandy Barbour has been abandoned, so writing a simple, portable ACARS client has become a non-trivial task. FlyWithLua could be an alternative, but honestly speaking, Lua is not Python. That's particularly true when developing network stuff – that end, Python has the much more comprehensive standard library. Therefore I also launched a project to develop PIX, an open source Python interface, finally bringing Python 3 to X-Plane. There is no code yet, and it will certainly take some time until something usable will have grown – therefore be patient: it will be done, but not in a couple of days or weeks.

So as promised, some change has been initiated – others are taking care of reworking the website, re-establish UNICEF sponsor management, strengthen communication within and outside the community, organize events, link with online networks such as VATSIM, IVAO or PilotEdge, and much much more stuff behind the scenes. Air-Child got back its chance for a bright future – now it's up to all pilots bringing Air-Child to life.

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