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The beginning of Air Defense

I've been meaning to start this stupid blog for quite some time, but I guess I never really had a reason until now. I forget sometimes that people can't read my mind, and this project has gotten a little involved now, so it's probably time I try to start explaining what the hell I'm doing here.

I created CLS Aviation as a house for all my aviation-related projects. Now that I add them up, there seem to be quite a few and each will take a little time to add. For now, my attention is currently being primarily sucked up by my new project "Air Defense". What is it exactly? To be honest, I don't even really know anymore. I guess in the end it will be a training program for people to get their Part 61 FAA Private Pilot's License. From my standpoint, It's kinda something I decided to do in order to help me get through the actual process of getting my CFI by making it a little more fun and incorporating some of my other skills with graphics. (I guess for a long time I avoided this rating because it sounded like an overwhelming amount of boring work.) In the end, I'm not sure how it'll go over with the public...not everyone will want to do it I'm sure...I'll still have to be able to offer *normal* flight training. Perhaps this is more something that is geared towards a newer, younger student looking for something different.

Air Defense was originally a game concept I came up with along with my friend Craig in Art School. Back then it was called CODE3. We had to design a game for our final project. Our favorite activity at the time was to get drunk on wine and play Grand Theft Auto. All we did was drive around and run over people and laugh. We both like cop themes and wanted to see a Grand Theft Auto-type game from the other side of the law. It was primitive, but for our little 2 man team...i think we accomplished quite a bit. A large part of the game involved flying cars.

Years later, while working for Ubisoft, I got more into writing game documents. I was working as an artist, but still a pilot at heart. I had somehow come to the realization that the game industry (then) was entirely focused on making flying games that reduced the player down to a monkey, and just had them flying in circles and shooting. Beautiful, but boring to me. No games at that point incorporated landing, navigation, getting out of the plane....stuff like that. I had my brain sunk into grand theft auto for years by that point. I wanted something like that, except with planes as the focus. I was also into sneaking and hiding types of games like Metal Gear and especially Splinter Cell. Hours and hours I sunk into Splinter Cell. I was very fond of Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow which featured a brilliant multiplayer setup pairing Spies vs. Mercenaries. One had all the firepower, while the other one had all the stealth skills. Brilliant design.

I was a new Private Pilot then. A friend of mine at work asked me at one point, "what it would take to actually steal a plane?". I thought about it for a little while. "not much." It was kind of then the idea was born. I had already been messing around with an idea similar to CODE 3 already, but it was then I decided to smash my open-world cop idea into an aviation world where the player would be required to sneak into airports and steal airplanes. So, I gave it my best shot and started teaching myself how to write a real game document. I'd work all day making Ghost Recon and then go home at night and forge out this new idea I had. I called it AERO.


  • Aviate and Explore.

  • Obtain flying skills and learn advanced maneuvers for various aircraft.

  • Fly humanitarian missions while navigating challenging terrain and hazardous weather.

  • Get out of the aircraft and explore dramatic ground environments.

  • Survive in a hostile environment.

  • Use stealth/combat skills to eliminate the enemy and remain out of sight.

  • Utilize top-secret technology to perform dangerous airborne missions.


  • Non-Linear Flight Environment

  • Challenging Aviation

  • Realistic Flight Systems

  • Dynamic Environments

  • Diversionary stealth/combat.

I basically took Splinter Cell and GTA style world, and added planes to it. Ubi owned the Splinter Cell franchise anyway so why not. I kept writing version after version and eventually found myself in the office of the head Tom Clancy writer. I clearly didn't know what I was doing, but he was thankful for the effort I was making. He met with me once a week and gave me guidance and the idea grew. As it did, I continued to refine it and add graphics. At some point, I took Sam Fisher and asked...."what if Sam Fisher was a female?" Needed something different for a marketing standpoint, so I rolled with it making sure to keep the 3 green lights intact.

Eventually, the idea had become too big for just me. I simply wasn't able to finish it enough to actually pitch it. It was simply too much for an Xbox360 and I was overloaded with actual work that I was getting paid for. It needed a team behind it. Too much time, too much stress, my marriage had fallen apart by then, and eventually, my time at Ubisoft came to an end as I moved back to work at another studio in California. The idea never really died, but obviously, any connection I had to Splinter Cell wasn't possible now. I had to start over.

The next version of my aviation game idea had all the secret agent stuff ripped out and concentrated just on aviation. It was a simple firefighting game for a smartphone and I actually had a playable version of that at one point, but again it fell through the sands of time.

I'd show up at airports here and there...I seemed to have accumulated all this footage at airports I was playing with. A trailer that never got made. Dark spotlights, red glow of someone rooting around in a cockpit....the idea was still there, it just had nowhere to go. I tossed around various independent movie ideas....just never went anywhere.

So when I got into doing this CFI training, the idea natuarally followed. All my initial thoughts were merely about a cool presentation for the examiner. I wanted something cool looking, like a game almost, to keep students engaged. I just wanted a theme of some kind that allowed me to edit stuff, mix fun videos, and do custom graphics. After I had passed my CFI written test, My buddy Tattoo Mark was always hanging out here and we put together what ended up being the video on this site in a home studio I had assembled in the garage. Took a couple of weeks and several versions as I nailed down some sort of plot line that would transition. The further I got into it, the less I was able to turn back. In the beginning, I was initially only concerned on how to get from a video, into the student's chair...however I wasn't even considering how this will all play out in real life, and I guess I'm still figuring it out even now. I have my plan in the works, but it's a challenge now. I need this rating and I can't take another 2-3 months to get I have to focus on the FAA portion first and I'm going to have to go revise a lot later.

But that's about where I'm at. At this point, I got some help and now have like 80-something pages of my syllabus built into this website, so now it's just a game of going back and making it look pretty and presentable. For my check ride, I should be able to just pull up this website and start talking. Should work...DPE can follow along on her ipad and the student will also have a resource to take with them as they go throughout training. I imagine I'll be updating it with graphics, links, videos,....for quite some time. A living syllabus if you will.

I've been out of the plane for about a soon as I get this just a little farther along, I should be ready to perfect my maneuvers and start thinking about scheduling the checkride. I'm getting closer.


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