It is guest blogger time once again. Today I am happy to have Courtney who is the co-creator of the Airplane Geeks Podcast, founder of AirlineEmpires.net, currently works for a commercial aircraft OEM, and is a self-proclaimed stud muffin (he added that last part). He takes a look at what many of us did when younger — building our own airlines. My first attempt at creating my own airline was playing Aerobiz on the Super Nintendo. It moved to pretty much every other computer came. More recently, I got obsessed with other computer airline games and started losing valuable blog time, so I had to stop. I always thought how cool it would be to create my own, but didn’t have know-how or time. Luckily for us, folks like Courtney did and he explains his path in his own words:
It’s a prerequisite of Airplane Geekdom that you spend hours and hours drawing out the plans for your own airline at a young age. I finally succumbed to the temptation when I was 12. With my AeroTrader in one hand, and blank paper in the other, I chose 2 old Piper Navajo’s priced at about $250K each to run my Chicago Meigs-based airline. I built a schedule, had a full year’s worth of financials, and even started writing a business plan (to this day, I’m still convinced it would have worked if it weren’t for that pesky Mayor Daley). But just building the idea wasn’t enough. I wanted to know if it would work.
So, I built my first airline business simulation. It was nothing more than some rules, a 10-headed die, some paper, and a pencil. In retrospect, this is where I should have stopped, however, over the years I decided it would be so much better to automate it with a little bit of computer magic. So after failed attempts at multiple languages, I went to Barnes and Noble, bought a book on PHP and MySQL programming, and read it over the weekend. I made the browser type “hello world” a couple of times and was off and running.
And so began my obsession with Airline Empires. A project that started because I wanted a way to find out if my airline ideas worked, was soon open to the public. The simulation floundered over and over again as the user base grew to 100, then 1,000, then 10,000, and finally peaked at 50,000 virtual airline entrepreneurs. One achievement I’m very proud of is that Airline Empires was the very first airline simulation which took into account competition in real time. In a nutshell, the fortunes of players’ airlines were dictated not only on their decisions, but on the decisions of the other players in the game. Sounds simple, but the complexities of it are mind boggling.
The problem with the game is that it never really was a game; It was as realistic a simulation as I could build. As airline investors know, realistic airline simulations aren’t much fun, and as close as I tried to make my simulation to reality, the true reality was that if you had 50,000 airlines, nobody made money. So I struggled with angry players, competing spin-offs, and a lack of time. Largely, the project has cost me thousands of dollars over the past 10 years, with not much more than disappointment and frustration.
Airline Empires wasn’t a complete bust. The techniques I learned from an airline perspective have served me well as I’m now paid to create airline business models, which is more of a fluke than a direct result of Airline Empires. What I’m most proud of, however, isn’t the simulation itself, but the advertising for it. Having learned some rudimentary Flash programming, I decided to put together a bit of a trailer for the game. It was my homage to airline history, and it quickly became more popular than the game itself. And so, as a sort of eulogy to the last 10 years that was Airline Empires, here is a look back at some of the failed airlines through the years. Enjoy.