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Going to Sonalysts

Living in Connecticut, a sim writer feels a little isolated from the big game companies in Texas, California and elsewhere around the country. So, when word got out that the folks at Sonalysts (Waterford, Conn.) were working on a new naval sim (Sub Command), I had to be Johnny-on-the-Spot and check it out for SimHQ in May of 2001.  The good folks at beat us to the punch with a visit, but it was still a great experience, meeting  Kim Castro, Mike Kolar and their crew. Everyone couldn’t have been nicer, and SimHQ got some very early (pre-Alpha) screenshots of the vicious “Squall” rocket torpedo in action. It was a great visit, and a most excellent day, even if I did find out that Kim and my sister-in-law may have been in the same musical in high school. Small world! The archived article is here.

Flying the Dragon

In the spring 1999, I began researching my grandfather’s B-24 missions and started down a whirlwind path of learning about the life and times of an Allied bomber crew in WWII that continues to this day.

One day late that summer, as I often did, I took a drive to my local airport, just to sit and watch the planes take off and land. I happened to see a bright flyer on the FBO’s bulletin board, and walked over to read it. The event it was advertising turned into one of the most amazing days of my life, thanks to SimHQ.

It turned out that the Collings Foundation would soon be in town with their B-17 and B-24, and I don’t think I was home for more than five minutes before I called the number on the flyer for more information. I ended up speaking to Bob Collings himself, and we chatted for a while about his project. I had originally planned to just write a story about the organization and what it was doing, and maybe spend a day talking to his crews as they made their way through our area. It seemed like a natural story for SimHQ.

But then he offered a flight.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the two days I spent with the Collings crews were among the most memorable of my life, and I have this site to thank. He thought the flight sim community would enjoy reading about his aircraft, so he let me take a shuttle flight between stops. It was an amazing experience, and the article that I wrote generates e-mail to me to this day.

Since then, thousands of people have likely done the same thing I have with the Foundation, but in 1999, at the peak of my interest in WWII bombers, it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance. The article link is here.

Unveiling Strike Fighters

For those who remember, late 2000 and early 2001 were suspenseful months in the flight sim world. Tsuyoshi Kawahito, one of best-known names in simming design, had previously announced his new venture, Third Wire Productions, and the rumor mill was a-flying about what their first public project would be. Given the name of his company, many people assumed it would be a naval sim, maybe even a sequel to F-14 Fleet Defender.

SimHQ and a few other sites were hot on his tail for information, and on February 9, 2001, after months of e-mail back-and-forth, I called and spoke to TK about what he was planning. After getting his approval, we ran this a few minutes later:

BREAKING NEWS: (and some other sites, we’d imagine) will likely be unveiling screenshots this weekend of a new flight simulator being developed by Third Wire Productions, a Texas-based development company run by Tsuyoshi Kawahito of EAW fame. It is a jet-based flight sim, but not modern-era. 😉 We think you’ll like it, based on what we’ve heard. Stay tuned for more information! Posted 02/09/01 – 2:45 PM ET

And was there more information! Along with a few other sites, we posted screenshots shortly thereafter, and things just took off from there.

SF:P1 and the Third Wire sims that have come since have been favorites for so many of us, and it was great to help break the news to the sim community about this approachable, fun and great title.

Meeting Andy Bush

I’ve already written here about our little field trip to the New England Air Museum (link) in January 2002, but it has to be included on this list as well!

Meeting Pete Marone

A few years before Andy came by beautiful, sunny Connecticut, SimHQer Pete Marone also made a trip to the Nutmeg State, while on a cross-country jaunt to visit family nearby. Since most hotels are wary of renting to Marines with fast cars, I offered Casa del Sponauer for an overnight. Pete showed up the same day as my beta copy of Urban Ops, and so we burned the midnight oil getting some preview screenshots, bullshitting about things, and hanging out. The next day, we hit the New England Air Museum and had a great time. Pete, Andy, Crash, Troll, Frank…hell, everyone, really…were all great friends, and I enjoyed the time “meeting” them online. But those rare personal visits were the best. Pete, next time you’re out this way, we’re hitting the tank museum! Coming from California, Pete thought it was pretty funny when he asked how far the air museum was from my house: 45 minutes. The tank museum? 45 minutes. The sub museum? 45 minutes. 😉

We Have How Many New Members?

Last, but not least, was an event that transformed SimHQ. The decision by Combatsim to go the paid subscription route on December 29, 2000 helped an already great site become an even better one. I remember talking to Dan Crenshaw — at work, I think — and just repeating the news over and over. We couldn’t believe it.

I had no personal history, good, bad or otherwise, with the folks behind Combatsim, and I have no idea if their decision helped or hurt their bottom line. I wish them all the luck and success in the future; our genre needs coverage! But their decision sure helped our site. Within hours, our EAW message board went from cobwebs to a bustling hive of activity. We’d always had a dedicated group of board posters, but the great migration truly helped several of our communities form and develop a life of their own. And those communities have produced new writers for us, provided a lively place to hang out and meet like-minded folks, and really helped to define us.

And so it goes, on and on. There are so many more stories, but I guess those will have to wait for the 20th anniversary, like the time we got a photo of one of the marquee stars of the movie Top Gun reading our humble little site, or the various wonderful people who have written for us over the years. The site wouldn’t be the same without them, nor would it be the same without the dedication and resources of our owners. Lastly, the community itself, the reason we all were and are part of the site, is the fuel that keeps the whole thing going.

It was always an honor to be part of SimHQ, and it remains so to this day. We hope you’ve enjoyed this past week’s walk down memory lane. Here’s to many more!

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