Later That Evening…
A formal dinner was enjoyed by a packed house that night, with keynote addresses from Brett Schnepf and Hal Bryan of Microsoft and Mark Silcock of IFC. Again, Captain Mike Ray happened to be seated at the table. Now, during breaks in the evening’s festivities, and while we were enjoying an excellent prime rib dinner, I tried to catch conversations between tablemates and they all seemed to be about the exhibits and FSX. I’m fairly certain mine was the only table that discussed landing airliners in such charming destinations as scenic Beirut or getting posted to Eritrea in the Sixties. The chatter at my table seemed to be more interesting, so I ordered another drink.
Silcock was up first, giving a roadmap that IFC will be taking in the future and what we can expect in coming years. While IFC has conferences in Spain, Holland, Germany, France, Poland, the UK and now the US, there’s going to be one more addition to the family, IFC Australia. Melbourne will be hosting a 2007 conference, and although there is not a date set, there is quite a bit of excitement that’s been generated and the energy will get kicked even higher as Hong Kong has also been added to the list of locations. Silcock and IFC are poised to be the driving force behind making flight simulation a much more prominent pursuit.
He said something that night that has stuck with me and I hadn’t even given it a thought. Flight simulation allows, he said, anyone to experience the joy of aviation that they ordinarily couldn’t because of circumstances like finances or disability. My right eye has been blind since birth and it’s something that has prevented me from getting a private pilot’s license or entering the military, a goal I wanted to realize from my childhood, having come from a family of men who’d been in uniform or still were.
Unconsciously, I’d gravitated to flight simulation to gain something akin to the actual experience of flight. It was something I always wanted for myself and still want today. I am hoping that one day I’ll be able to get my Sport Pilot’s license, but until that time, I’ll be flying on a computer. Silcock was able to speak to the desire we have as flight simmers, to get to the core of why we do it. It’s for this reason, I believe, that IFC — no matter what location — will be integral to the growth of flight simulation, whether you’re a hobbyist or it’s your livelihood.
Up next was Brett Schnepf and I knew there was a reason I like him. He’s a self-described disciple of ‘The Ronnie Van Zant School of Management’. Yes, that Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd. For that reason, the title of Schnepf’s presentation was titled “It’s a Rotgut Life”. Van Zant, Schnepf reasoned, would have made a hell of business manager and because of the way he set his band up for success, his was a model to follow.
Paramount, he emphasized, was taking care of your people and tolerating no BS, comparing his no-nonsense approach to the time Van Zant fired his entire management team and replaced them with the manager who’d previously worked with the Rolling Stones, the basis of the album, ‘Gimme Back My Bullets’. Through the presentation, Schnepf’s business philosophy was something people have argued forever and it’s something I’ve seen over and over again in my own professional career. If you perform well and do what’s necessary to complete the task, you engender two things: respect and loyalty. If not, you’re shown the door.
Schnepf had given the entire presentation barefoot and offered a trivia question, the correct answer to which he would reward from a table piled high with goodies, the majority of which were expensive. He’d asked, “What about my appearance, what is it about me that bears relationship to the way Ronnie Van Zant was?”
At this time, I raised my hand, he called on me, and I answered, “Because Van Zant performed barefoot.” Now, I was under the impression that the prizes were to be given away in a raffle I’d just bought five bucks’ worth of tickets to. This was a surprise, and I’d had my eye on the FSX vouchers being offered. It would have been nice to have been one of the first to review it, but he reached down and handed me something else, an ATI Radeon X1900XT PCI-Express 512MB video card worth about $700. You notice I’m not griping. It was an effort not to ruin the dignity of the evening.
Unfortunately, I had an early flight and was informed by other travelers in the lobby that security procedures were taking longer than usual because of so many people delayed in Denver. I retired after the raffle concluded the evening’s events. Bidding my new friends goodbye, I crashed early.
That morning, I rose and packed, taking the airport shuttle to Denver International. I reflected on the many things I’d seen the previous day. From home cockpits to mahogany models to add-ons of every conceivable flavor, I couldn’t imagine how long it would take someone to cover the IFC Europe event. You’d need an extra day.
As I watched the three main concourses of DIA fall away from me to Earth, the Canadair CRJ70 picking up speed, I looked out the window at the panorama below. Just outside of the city, a small municipal airport could be seen, with air traffic taking off and landing. We’re almost there, I thought to myself, I saw things yesterday that put us closer to this than anything ever made. I’ve made friends that weekend that I’ll keep in contact with for a long time, and I wasn’t shocked at all by the feeling of community shared by everyone, from the exhibitors to the attendees.
I saw exhibitors share equipment. I saw dozens of volunteers man booths and help exhibitors show their products to enthralled audiences. For anyone who can make it to an IFC event, I advise you to go. You’ll come away with the same feeling I have, and it’s worth the time and money you’ll spend and more.
Special Thanks To: Mark Silcock, Captain Mike Ray, Alex Ford, Martin Wright, Tyrone Wong, Robert Trent, and the entire Microsoft crew.
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