I have never thought one second that I would blog about two things I am really passionate about: Firefox and flying! What has Firefox got to do with flying anyway, one would be tempted to ask! My passion about aviation and flying dates back to the mid-seventies when I skipped classes to walk miles just to to see the only plane that landed in the area once a week (see my post about localization). And then BBC computers with Basic as a programming language when I studied in Scotland. And Windows 95 and the internet and my first (really) personal computer! Those were times when I spent a whole night trying to configure Windows NT without even having a network! And those times when I discovered online games and the famous Red Baron, the combat flight simulator that occupied most of my nights during those Compuserve (my internet service provider) times.
The computer has allowed me to do a lot of thing that I had always dreamed of: composing music, flying, designing… But it is with flight simulation that I really fulfilled the dream in the most satisfying manner. Red Baron was a fantastic experience back then, but the level of realism in flight simulation has reached heights that are simply stunning! Planes are modelled to the industry specifications and some top level simulator planes are even licensed to the manufacturer! Yes, today I am a “real” pilot who flies the huge Beoing 777-300ER approved by Boeing!
When I joined Mozilla a few years back, I used to fly long hauls almost twice or three times a week. My favorite destination was Dubai, from my hub in Paris Charles De Gaulle. And of course I flew much longer than that, especially to Hong Kong Kai Tak or JFK International in New York. I have never told any Mozillian that I actually flew planes in the simulator and that I am a hardcore flight sim pilot. How could I imagine that there were Mozillians who also did the same?
Yes flying online is closely related to browsing… The flight simulation community has developed a network of hundreds of thousands of users when pilots log into the systems to make their experience “as real as it gets”! I have been a member of Vatsim (Virtual Air Traffic Simulation Network) for quite sometime and I would have probably got really bored by now if we did not have all the realism that characterizes flight simulation today. You plan your flight like the real airline would do. You file your flight-plan to Air Traffic Control and request clearances to perform any stage of your flight. Air Traffic controllers are also connected to the network and direct pilots trough Standard Departures, Terminal Arrivals or simply taxiways to runways for take-off. Only qualified members of the network are actually allowed to be controllers. And its as serious as that. Yes we take flight simulation seriously!
As the realism gets even more fascinating, there is an aspect of flight simulation that I am also passionate about thanks to the computer: aircraft painting. I have always been passionate about art and painted and drew almost every single day when I was a teenager. Being able to use a graphics software to paint beautiful aircraft schemes was a real blast! I started painting airline schemes from Africa using the famous Paint Shop Pro! And what a nice feeling to fly an aircraft with your own painting design!
Firefox 10 years celebration was a huge event round the world. And it was only a few days after the celebration started that I thought: “Wait, how can I celebrate Firefox 10 years in a really unique way that nobody has ever done it?”. I thought about the craziest things you could imagine like gathering a hundred people with orange and blue clothes and that kind of thing. But I wanted to be original and not ask for any budget or files bugs and harass my mentor to approve it and stuff! Yes, I am going to paint the greatest flight simulation aircraft ever developed, the Boeing 777-300ER from Precision Manuals Development Group. I have been flying PMDG planes for some time now and I can say I am a heavyweight pilot as these huge long range planes are my favorite!
The paint scheme had to be perfectly done as we are talking about branding and color palettes and style guides to respect Firefox identity. The style guide I downloaded from the assests website was crucial to make the painting really exciting. That allowed me to use accurate swatches and correct fonts in Photoshop CC and Illustrator to make the plane’ paint scheme look as real as a that of an airline company. After hours of adjustments, savings, layer manipulations, I ended up accepting that it was not going to be perfect. But I was exciting to apply the paint scheme in the simulator. That is a really tedious task. You have to export the PSD file with a special plug-in developed by Nvidia to get an output DTS or DDS texture file format that is compatible with 3D models, transparency, Alpha channels and all those barbaric terms that we are so familiar with! This is the most complex and delicate stage. You can ruin all your hard work by forgetting for instance to flip textures vertically while exporting to DDS format!
And it worked! I have just loaded the huge aircraft in my simulator and the result is stunning! I was really impressed with the metal gloss look of the fuselage and the beauty of the Firefox wordmark! I will soon share this gorgeous paint scheme with my friends from the networks to have their feedback! And surprise, an awesome Mozillian I already know is actually a great flight sim enthusiast! Robby Sayles was among the first who got really excited about the Firefox 10 years plane. Then another great flight simmer called Sam Melvin just wanted me to share the paint scheme now because he is waiting to fly it and celebrate with me. Not long after that, I compiled the work into a format that is installable and shared it with the community. I am not sure how many people actually downloaded the Firefox 10 years paint scheme but I am sure that people loved the idea and they loved the artwork itself.
Of course I was not just painting for fun! No, an aircraft is not a fashion model but a real soul that flies to destinations! I had secretly planned to fly a world tour to celebrate 10 years of Firefox. I did not want someone else to steal my idea since I wanted to be “original”. Flying a world tour with the 777-300ER is quite a challenge because it takes ages to complete the distance but also to plan the different legs. The route was simple:
1st leg: LFPG-KSFO (Paris CDG to San Francisco)
2nd leg: KSFO-YBBN (San Francisco Intl to Brisbane)
3rd leg: YBBN-RJTT (Brisbale to Tokyo Haneda)
4th leg: RJTT-OMDB (Tokyo Haneda to Dubai Intl)
5th leg (final): OMDB-LFPG (Dubai Intl to Paris CDG
All the legs were completed successfully altough sometimes I had to use time compression for the longest ones. I tweeted regularly while flying to share my excitement with Mozilla communities and flight simulation enthusiast! It is really important to understand that the Flight Sim community is a connected community and is using the internet intensively. It is time that we as Mozillians develop bridges between these communities and Mozilla and bring more users to Firefox! Many virtual airlines (VA) are operating online and are using Web applications to manage their activity. ATC bookings, pilot profiles and flight maps are also all online. Many of these application need a good browser and most importantly a browser that suits their needs. Firefox and Firefox addon, as well as Firefox OS can bring a lot to the flight simulator community. Many developers of Flight Simulator applications would also benefit from more knowledge of Firefox Web API and that is good for Mozilla and our products.
Download texture here: http://bit.ly/1tAA5Kg
Blue edition http://bit.ly/1wmxOEv
(Compatible only with PMDG Boring 777-300ER – Please install with Operations Center only!)