This page is made to provide background info and history about the development of AirwaySim, and is written by the project developer Sami Puro.
The AirwaySim project started in late summer 2006. The exact date is not known but small plans and ideas for such a project had been growing up for a period of time with the developer. The first small plans for an "airline game" were thought in August / September 2006. The first steps were to make some basic market research and collect some basic data to see if such a project was even doable. The second project choice would have been a flight planning application for flight simulation purposes but this airline management software seemed to be more interesting and it took the lead.
The first steps of AirwaySim development were very small and mostly experimental - no concrete and exact plans were drafted and purpose was to test things and see "how easy it could be". The many dimensions of such software quickly made the developer more and more interested of the different possibilities and research continued. At this point AirwaySim was still supposed to be small hobby project that would take no more than 1 - 1,5 years to complete. However things have changed since then..
The project had many possible names for it. At start it was simply a small & anonymous project but the name choice was decided in December 2006 when project was given the "mental go ahead"; meaning that the small testing and research had proven that the project is doable. The preferred name would have included the "Airline" word somewhere in the name, and simply calling it Airline Game was considered (and later adopted as part of the main name). However an Australian company had at the time an old offline software called Airline and confusion between these would have been imminent so a different type of name was then considered. Decision as the main brand name was AirwaySim which probably is not directly relative to an airline sim game but still related to aviation, with all the jet airways high up in the sky (and it is a unique name too)..
AirwaySim website was first uploaded in early 2007 but remained hidden until early spring. By April 2007 the first version of the website was published with very limited public information. The game engine however was running at the background and was already accessible by about 10-20 people who casually tested and clicked around in the system. The development of the software had still the status of a small hobby project and thus the plans were not very exact (leading to longer development times). The first game model was to be with a completely static timing and fixed turn-based days, with one turn being one game week, and that being 5 hours of real time. At this point there was still consideration about different time methods, between turns, real time and other models. Final decision to use the accelerated real time (i.e. time moving in game day-by-day and day being 20-60 minutes) was made few months later, by around October 2007.
AirwaySim forum was opened in May 2007, first under FSnordic.net but moving in two months to our own website. In spring 2007 the development took big steps ahead, although to the public eye it may have seemed that nothing is happening. As so often in small projects the actual work and coding is in the first place and public relations, like posting news and screenshots comes then later (if at all). First public pictures of the game engine were posted to the new AWS forums in June 2007. These pictures show already a realistic 24h scheduling system, airport information, maps and other features. Comparing the screenshots to current AirwaySim site and navigation menus tells quickly though that the number of features was very limited by then. But still that low amount of features would have been very similar to other sims available back then (or today?), but the aim and goal was higher and development continued. On August 2007, a year after AWS project was started the website received a visual update. This layout was in use until November 2009.
In late 2007 it became obvious that the project is starting to grow to such a large scale that late-2007 or early-2008 release is not possible. More time is needed as the plan was still to complete "all essential features" and make sure they all work nearly flawlessly. During the whole time of the development the estimated release dates were communicated to the followers of our site news. At all times the message was that release comes when everything is ready, and all time frames given a very flexible estimates. As the project was not anyone's main job and there was no commercial publisher pushing the development there was no hurry either; quality product was the only goal.
Because of the huge amounts of time needed to complete the project a big decision was made. AirwaySim was not going to be free software when it was released. A decision to take participation fees for playing the simulation was made in September 2007. This also meant that the website would be ad free and some investments to a proper web server could be made. AirwaySim was not planned to be a money making scheme by any means though - the play fees were added because the development started to grow to so big scales that as an hobby project it would have been too big, and all time used to it would have not been justified. And growing larger meant also more expenses (own server for example was essential) that just advertisement or donation based scheme would have not worked.
In February 2008 news was posted that postponed the AirwaySim project release by many months. The developer was extremely busy in his real-life work (see last chapter), and this meant also less time to develop AirwaySim. All planning, development, coding and communications of the project were and are done on the spare time of the developer and his assistants so changes in planned release dates were inevitable. During February 2008 the game engine had been in playable condition for nearly 6-10 months already but the amount of features kept still growing as early alpha testers and developer wanted to make it better, and some core features such as airport slots and seating configuration were still missing at this point. Some user interface changes and testing was still urgently required.
June 2008 brought some new features such as staff systems, fleet commonality, airport closures, email notifications, proper bankruptcies and much more. Many of the existing features were also updated constantly and made better. Plans and instructions on how to enlist for the semi-public beta testing were also posted at this point.
One of the keys in AirwaySim development was to release a complete and functional product. This is also the main reason why development kept going on longer and longer. A buggy and non-working software was simply not an option.
The beta testing of AirwaySim officially started on 26th August 2008, some 2 years after the project planning initially started. At this point the main features were already done (almost) and beta was only supposed to be a testing of the complete system; to make sure the server works, software works, and all components are properly lined up for the public release. Beta testers were invited from the people who had submitted data to the project, and complemented with regular users / interested people from those who had subscribed to our email newsletter. Some 300 beta testers were selected.
After all the hard work it was great to see that the launch of the beta program worked out without major flaws. The number of bugs found was quite large but nearly all of them were only minor user interface or secondary system related issues. The amount of feedback and comments received was also very high and all the bug reports and comments helped to fine tune the system and to make it better.
Finally in December 2008 a firm release date was given - December 2008 to January 2009. The last major feature, aircraft seat configuration, was completed in mid-December and some time was still given for the final round of testing to make sure this feature works properly. After some well earned holidays during Christmas the AirwaySim was released to public on 9th January 2009.
The interest to AirwaySim really exploded with the public release on January 2009. The project had been on the net for so long already and much information had been posted that now when it was finally available everyone wanted to test it. Fortunately the launch of the software was successful, thanks to the long beta period everything worked out just like it should have. We opened three full game worlds during the first two weeks of operation and interest was huge.
Although everything worked like planned it was no time to start resting at this point. The first public release of AirwaySim was thought to be only the first milestone in this journey, and development of version 1.1 game engine started already in February 2009. It was already known that there are some missing features, and others that need improvement in the game engine. Plan in the long term was already at this point to keep developing the software and make it even better. The 1.1 version updates were completed in July 2009, with the main update being new aircraft ordering systems (but having 100+ other improvements / features too).
A new bold and fresh website look was launched in November 2009, and just before that also the v.1.11 was made available that was basically a "service pack" type upgrade. It added numerous small features and more than a dozen new aircraft models to the database.
The work on updates and improvements was constant during the following years. The v.1.2 was released in spring of 2010 and the main changes were the addition of base airports feature, a complete update of the countrie's geopolitical system (full history for each country with flags and such), a complete update of the aircraft performance system (fuel usage calculations etc.). The continuous improvement of the v.1.2 continued till the end of 2010 and after that the development switched to the new v.1.3.
The release of game engine v.1.3 happened in July 2011. The first revision included about 50+ changes and new features making this the single largest update ever so far. So far all game engine version updates were only available to any game worlds beginning after the update went live; current games continued with the old version until they ended. At that time the scenarios did not last longer than 2-4 months so it was not a problem, but a decision was made to extend the game scenarios so that they could span for several decades and making them very long in real time too (even up to 12 months). This meant also that the current versioning system was not possible anymore, and hence all updates after this would be rolled in into each and every game world (and still maintain the same v.1.3 version number). So even though still today, mid-2014, the game engine version is still the same, v.1.3, it's merely a technicality and the concept of version updates was basically dropped in favour of continous updates rolled in to each game scenario.
Since 2011 AirwaySim has received literally hundreds of updates and changes. Our aim is bring something new almost every month.
A mammoth task of updating the whole user interface of the simulation was started in 2012. The aim was to bring a new fresh look not only to the website but also to all functions, making the service appear more modern and professional. So far most of the design and development work had been done in-house with minimal expenses but for this project we decided to take a big leap forward and employ several people to design the changes. The basic work finished, after some delays, in early 2013 and the new interface and website look was launched in the summer of 2013. This included going through each and every page of the website and game interface, and everything was checked and updated.
One of the main updates with the layout changes was the better support for mobile platforms. The usage on mobile devices was growing all the time, it it still is, and we wanted to serve those users better than before - the old desktop PC setup is slowly giving space to tablets and other portable devices. So the new layout was now also compatible with these devices.
In late 2013 the software expanded to the educational sector. A customized version of the AirwaySim's simulation has been offered to universities and other educational providers. The simulation can be used to teach the basics of business management and to give a very detailed insight to airline operations.
In this market AirwaySim has proved to be a fresh and new product and it has been received with excitement. The expansion benefits also our regular consumer customers since we are now better able to develop AirwaySim into an even better business simulation, and any new features developed for the educational customers will also be available in the normal and public scenarios (if applicable).
The concept of development in the future shall follow the same path as now. The aim is provide continuous improvements and updates to the software all the time. Many of these are minor changes and updates, but there are also several bigger features in the works.
The AirwaySim project leader Sami Puro is a Finnish aviation professional, flight simulation enthusiast and a part-time webmaster and web developer. Sami is in charge of the AirwaySim project planning and coding. He is also helped by a group of people in server management and administration tasks. For the AirwaySim project a lot of help has been also received from the AirwaySim user community in the form of testing, feedback and data submissions (such as airport data).
Sami's experience in websites goes back to year 1998 when he started a flightsim website Flight Simulator Finland which in year 2000 expanded to be Flight Simulator Nordic (or FSnordic.net), and operates today with its sister site FlightForum.fi. He is also managing some other aviation, and non-aviation, related websites but AirwaySim is by far the biggest project and task.
Despite of all the web projects his main profession is still in aviation sector where he has been working since year 2001, currently as a pilot for a certain European airline and part-time task as a flight simulation specialist for a flight school in Helsinki.