Hans Richter FieldNear Grantville December 1633
Marie Moritz concentrated hard as she lined her plane up for final approach. The drone of the engines poured from the speakers next to the monitor as she fought a thirty mile-per-hour crosswind within a simulated Cessna. Although she routinely flew flights like this on her computer, she usually didn't do it while waiting to present this software to the top brass of the new USE Air Force.
The base didn't have a conference room and Colonel Wood's office was supposedly too small, so Marie had been directed to set up her equipment in one of the unused hangars that had recently been constructed. Through an arrangement with Lieutenant Miller, she managed to have her computer delivered to the base and set up two days prior to the meeting.
The room was cold—much too cold for Marie's comfort. The buildings on the base lacked heating. Had she known that, she would have brought gloves and worn something warmer than a skirt.
"Come on, Marie," she told herself. Her left leg began to bounce, draining off her nervous energy. "You can do it. You just have to concentrate." She reached up and adjusted the plane's flaps for landing and began to ease back on the throttle. That's it, just ease her in. You've done this a hundred times. It's no different just because you're going to be demonstrating this software.
Marie kept one eye on the altimeter and the artificial horizon as she descended. She didn't want to descend too quickly and end up as a smear on the ground, and she had to make sure she wasn't descending so slowly that she overshot the runway. The rest of the landing went quickly, and before she knew it, she heard the chirp of the tires on concrete as the plane touched down. As soon as she had brought the plane to a stop, she ended the simulation.
Before she could start another flight, Colonel Jesse Wood, the chief of staff of the nascent Air Force, entered the room a good half an hour late. "Marie Moritz?"
Marie stood up. "Colonel Wood." He had more than a few inches on her 5'3" frame and a strong grip to match.
"And this must be the flight simulator that you plan on showing me. If I remember correctly, you're in high school. I believe you were in Greg Ferrara's Rocket Club."
"Yes, sir," Marie responded.
"I realize you probably have a presentation, Ms. Moritz," he said, "but I think we can dispense with that. I'm familiar with flight simulators from my days in the Air Force. I had to do simulator checks in order to qualify in the aircraft I flew. Flight simulators are very useful for training, but they're a lot different than the real thing."
Marie began to tremble. This isn't going the way I planned. My whole proposal is ruined.
"I need simulators, Ms. Moritz," he said. "I need a way to weed out unsuitable pilot candidates before they get behind the controls of one of our few planes. And I need a way to put potentially good pilots into dangerous or emergency situations without risking them or their planes, so they can learn to handle those situations calmly when they meet them in the air.
"None of the simulators I have experience with came through the Ring of Fire," Colonel Wood continued. "Back up-time, I was aware of home computer based flight simulators, but I never had the time to really delve into them. I recognized how useful the software could be when I was forming up the Air Force this summer, but I didn't have the time or the resources to research it." He gave Marie a wry grin. "I wasn't sure if anyone even had the software or if they would be willing to part with it."
Colonel Wood gestured at the computer. "So tell me more about your flight simulator . Which one are you using? Can you create new aircraft and new terrain files? How realistic is it? And how easily can it be modified?"
Marie took a moment to organize her thoughts. Although she could answer most of his questions, her nerves had driven the answers from her head. "I think it'd just be easier for me to do my presentation, Colonel Wood. It should answer most of your questions."
"I'm sorry, Ms. Moritz. I guess I got a little excited by the prospect of having a flight simulator. Please, continue."
"Thank you, Colonel." With her notes in hand, Marie started her rehearsed presentation. The longer she presented, the more comfortable she became. She began by describing the two flight simulators she was familiar with, then went on to discuss how they could be used in training.
"Honestly? I don't know how real these programs are," Marie said as she neared the end of her presentation. "The program literature and comments on the news groups by experienced pilots suggest both programs are realistic. The biggest issue with realism, though, is the aircraft model. If they aren't modeled perfectly, their flight profiles won't be realistic. And even then, it might take some tweaking to get it just right."
Marie took a breath. "Back up-time, that was one of the biggest complaints with all flight simulators. The models would look like the real thing, but avid fans and pilots would take the time to tweak both the default planes and custom creations to ensure they would fly as realistically as possible."
Colonel Wood nodded his understanding. "I can't elaborate too much, Marie, but we have some new plane designs. Can we use the computer to test the design?"
Marie shook her head. "I'm not sure. I know you can't test a design with one of them, but I'm not so sure about the other. The two programs have completely different flight models. I could look into it, though."
He nodded and jotted down some notes. "Okay, you do that. Now, what sort of information do you need to accurately model an aircraft? "