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The Flare Path: Beyond Visual Range

Simulation & wargame blather

The Flare Path lights are dimmed today, the wind socks are at half mast. Jim Mackonochie, one of the most influential, approachable, and well-liked figures in flight simulation died on Tuesday. If you've flown a faithfully simulated military jet at any point during the last quarter century, there's a good chance you've enjoyed a game that Jim signed or nurtured. Though most closely associated with Eagle Dynamics creations like Flanker and DCS World, his combination of unquenchable aero enthusiasm and incomparable industry experience also Pavewayed the way for the Falcon series and the early Rowan sims.

The condolence thread over at the ED messageboards - currently 27 pages long - is almost as eloquent a testimony to Jim's affability and willingness to engage with the flight sim community as the 2600 invariably helpful/polite 'JimMack' posts scattered across the rest of the forums. Perusing it, a few messages illuminate like magnesium flares on a moonless Georgian night.

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“It is with a very heavy heart that I want to relay that our dear friend and compatriot Jim Mackonochie (JimMack) died of liver cancer today. Jim, the son of a British test pilot was a Royal Navy officer before being a key figure in the birth of PC flight simulation. Jim was pivotal in the launch of the original Falcon and many other software entertainment products before he served as the catalyst that brought The Fighter Collection and Eagle Dynamics together to launch the original Su-27 Flanker. In the years that followed, Jim served as the primary business development manager for TFC/Eagle Dynamics and was responsible for DCS products being available in dozens of countries around the world. But Jim was also one of the most genuine people you could hope to meet and he was a common sight at many fly-in, air shows, and industry events.

Like most people that excel in their field, Jim always had a true passion for this work and always pushed our team to provide the best product possible. Jim would spend hours going over reviews, customer feedback, and of course these very forums to provide the best possible perspective of what the customers wanted. He really was the customers' producer.

Jim will be deeply missed here and his passing leaves a hole in TFC and Eagle Dynamics that can never be filled.”

(Matt Wagner, Eagle Dynamics)

“I am shocked and saddened at the passing of my good friend Jim Mackonochie. It was in 1995 when Jim who, while working for Mindscape in the UK, first brought the possibility of SSI publishing an Su-27 Flanker simulation developed by a Russian developer named Eagle Dynamics. I was working at SSI on wargames and simulations and met Jim who was incredibly enthusiastic about both the sim and the developers. That was the beginning of a great friendship and working relationship.

Jim went on to continue to work on Flanker 2.0, Lock On: Modern Air Combat, and the continuing line of outstanding simulation products created by The Flying Collection/Eagle Dynamics.

Jim was a passionate professional who appreciated good friendship and was definitely one of our best Ambassadors in the air combat simulation genre.

I have had the great pleasure to have experienced the hospitality and kindness of Jim and his family when I've traveled to London. I have many fond memories of being with Jim at his home in London, at Duxford attending Flying Legends, at E3, in Moscow at Eagle Dynamics and "out on the town", and in San Diego.

The world is suddenly less colorful and a bit less interesting with the loss of a man like Jim Mackonochie. Rest in Peace my friend.”

(Carl Norman, ex-SSI/Ubisoft)

“I first met Jim in the early nineties when he was the Boss of Mindscape. Flanker was a just a dream. A flat green world with nearly no ground objects, just a runway and the tower. But it flew well and when I presented the product to Jim he immediately "locked on" and signed us up. As a one of the more memorable highlights of the development were the three white nights spent with Jim, Igor, Sergei Bezruchkin and myself in the Burgess Hill offices, pushing the very first version out of the door. We took short naps on the floor together under the office desks, ate pizza and drank Coke. We made it on time and on budget. Jim was the man that made us do it and want to do it. He has been that same man for more than twenty years for me. We loved him dearly because he cared so much. He never missed a Flying Legends and never missed a beat. We will miss him, I will miss him...

My deepest respects to his family and loved ones.”

(Nick Grey, The Fighter Collection)

(Translated from the Russian) “Jim Mackonochie has gone from us forever. Our producer, our source of inspiration. A British naval officer. A true gentleman.

Jim loved both the sea and the sky as a child loves - purely and unconditionally. He must have inherited this from his father, a crew member of the HMS Belfast and then a naval test pilot. Jim’s love for the sea affected his chosen profession and later, his passion for yacht racing. His love of the sky is what we are all indebted to for bringing to the world such amazing flight simulations. He stood at the foundation of the Flanker series, before that played a key role in the creation of the Falcon series, and before that participated in the birth of many other games. It’s hard to overestimate his influence in the modern flight simulation genre. In many ways he is responsible for the creation of a forward observer in DCS and the eventual expansion into controllable artillery and other ground units, as well as the formation of the DCS: Flying Legends series. Jim always demanded the impossible from us, but invariably his demands became realized and popular features.

Jim was also a wonderful person – kind, attentive, caring. Our TFC/ED colleagues from all over the world were always welcome in his home. It just so happens, that Jim was the first Englishman whom I got to know closely and you could say he adopted me to Great Britain. A country is no longer foreign when there is a home, in which you are always a welcome guest.

Now I feel a sudden emptiness, as if a piece of my heart has been torn out. Something that has not been completed, not heard through to the end, not finished saying…

Jim’s last post on the forum was short and symbolic: “yes”. That is the essential Jim – a man of a generation that saw the premier of “Yellow Submarine”, a bright individual that truly loved life.

Farewell, Jim. Rest in peace.”

(Dmitry 'Yo-Yo' Moskalenko, Eagle Dynamics)

Digesting and dissecting digital flight fare week-in and week-out, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that the code and the coders are often only part of the equation. Without dedicated enablers, inspirers and championers like Jim Mackonochie, the genre would be lost.

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Whipped Into Shape

When Slitherine/Matrix aren't responding to criticism of their pricing strategy with encouraging talk of weekly sales they're busy preparing heaps more war-steeped hexiana.

Recently announced titles include Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm, a new-engined sequel to the NBC-proof Flashpoint Germany (2005), Ghost Divisions, an expansion for board game conversion Conflict of Heroes (2012), and Piercing Fortress Europa, a hopefully-not-quite-as-conventional-as-it-first-appears Gustav Line game from veteran dev Frank Hunter.

If Helga, the pilot of the FP Fieseler Storch, is to be believed, the energetic Epsomites are also overseeing the development of Qvadriga at present. This promising chariot-racing tactics game covered in FP back in June last year, has, potentially, more popular appeal than a crocodiles-versus-Christians Colosseum matinee, hopefully something Slith will bear in mind when the time comes to attach price tags and decide on distribution channels.


You Reap What You Sow

The pastures around Upper Bumhope (FP's home village) are crowded with nodding cowslips and gambolling lambs at the moment. The carefree sheeplets and the butterfly-bowed blooms are almost as adorable as GIANTS Software. Farming Simulator's Swiss sires have decided to celebrate the continued success of their splendid sodbusting sim by giving fans a free expansion pack crammed with useful agri-accoutrements.

Previously sold as 'Farming Classics'  the pack includes eight antique tractors plus several barns' worth of the sort of rusting field clutter that regularly slays members of the Bumhope Hunt. Because we're talking FS rather than MSFS, dashboards, audio, and physics are token rather than true-to-life, but still, this sort of generosity is extremely rare in Simulatia. GIANTS, your unique FP flair point made from wheat ears, wheatears, and wheatear tears, is in the post.


The Flare Path Foxer

Châteaux chandeliers across Calvados shook on Saturday morning as 24 German anti-personnel mines discovered and lifted by Skabooga, Fleps and FhnuZoag were destroyed in a controlled explosion. The deft de-miners get a Flare Path pocket-watch each (the '37 model with the silver case and the hands in the shape of grasshopper legs) plus the eternal gratitude of the local branch of the UNPCR (Union of Nature Poets and Mushroom Gatherers).

The Upper Bumhope church fete is fast approaching and I've been asked to organise the 'Warrior Cavalcade' again. To prevent a repeat of last year's unpleasantness (The vicar still has a pike embedded in his chancel) I've decided to abandon the traditional chronological procession. This year the cavalcade will still be single-file, but...

  • No-one will be marching next to someone they marched next to last year.
  • The two Garys will be separated by at least one marcher (They've fallen out again over Gary P's back-garden fracking experiments)
  • Paula insists on marching either directly in front or behind Roger (Ever since last week's charity scrumpy morning the pair have been inseparable).
  • John's gun oil allergy means he can't march next to anyone with a firearm.
  • Now Peter has been diagnosed as alphaphobic, it's probably best he doesn't march next to anyone with an 'a' in their name.

Provide a workable cavalcade plan and a month's supply of rhubarb and ginger flavoured FP flair points could be yours.

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