Although at first a dream, The Shack has since progressed very far. In 2008 co-founders Ryan and Wallace wanted to fly planes and to use the equipment that real pilots use. Now, several years later, they are on their way to doing just that.
Golf Camp 2008: The original idea was laid out: Ryan and Wallace would build a wooden shack equipped with complete cockpit hardware and controls of an airplane, one you might see at a Boeing test facility.
Unfortunately, at the time this was simply impossible -- neither of the two boys had anywhere near enough money to create such a masterpiece. Yet their motivation was never lacking. Ryan and Wallace took the first step to a full scale cockpit in August of 2008 when they flew around the world from Ryan's "office.” The setup was simple enough: they had one yoke, a set of rudder pedals, and a fold out card table that was all mounted and connected in front of a TV. The flight was a success. It was after this modest beginning that the two began to see the potential within their crazy idea. They renamed the office "The Shack" and the business took flight.
The Shack began to expand. Ryan and Wallace continued to practice flying on their individual computers and flight sims in preparation for further updates. While Ryan seemed content, Wallace dreamt of big business and real profit, craving something to feed the exorbitant hunger of “The Shack.” The two boys were each at the opposite end of the spectrum: Wallace always yearned for more, sometimes too much, while on the other hand, Ryan was grateful with what they had achieved so far and was far too pessimistic to take on such ambitions.
The two extremes managed to balance each other out. Ambition was never lacking, but it was the two seemingly opposite opinions of Wallace and Ryan that kept them realistic; they had to proceed one small step at a time.
In December of 2008, the two placed an order for an autopilot MCP (this controls the functions of the autopilot) module, a Multiradio module (this is to tune radio frequencies, among other things), and an 737 EFIS module (which changes what is seen on the main cockpit displays -- such as airports, waypoints, etc) from a Spanish website called opencockpits.com.
This was not the only hardware addition that was made. The original card table where the yoke was mounted was replaced with a full size desk capable of fitting two 19 inch monitors and to accommodate a First Officer side if need be. With this new addition came an order from Wallace: his own set Yoke and Pedals, plus a throttle quadrant to control the engines. Once all of the packages arrived and were assembled, the cockpit (The Shack) looked legitimate.
Sometime in the early months of 2009 an idea was proposed of having a major virtual flight. To the surprise of Wallace and Ryan, many people were interested and ready to pay to come along. The now "crew" of the Shack (Wallace, Ryan, Greg, and Justin) were excited by the enthusiasm expressed towards their simulator. They chose a destination and a flight, Cathay Pacific 831, from New York to Hong Kong (through Vancouver) and preparation began.
With this spike in interest and popularity, their first website was created: www.cathaypacificflight.com. Ryan and Wallace took a small step into the world of expensive payware (software that you pay for) addons by purchasing MyTrafficX, FSDreamteam's New York Kennedy (KJFK), and the PMDG 747.
To enhance the experience for customers, Greg Fabry (Head of Tech) created E-Tickets that were customized for each passenger and were then sent out before the flight. The date was finalized, June 5, 2009, the passengers were confirmed; they were ready to go.
The flight came and went without any notable issues (the passengers behaved surprisingly well). With the flight a success, The Shack took on a more business approach to things. More flights were planned almost immediately, and hopes of real profit were now completely real. Ryan and Wallace often consider it a charity; you (as a passenger) pay to go somewhere virtually and your money goes to the expansion of the simulator itself. As time went on, business cards were made, a telephone number was created, the new website domain name was purchased, and the new site was put up.
Since June 5, 2009, there have been several other major flights. The November after the flight to Hong Kong, The Shack assumed Continental 1657 and flew to Bermuda. The third flight, Lufthansa 401 from New York to Frankfurt departed on December 17. Although the plane arrived safely, approximately 6 hours into the flight, the computer froze multiple times. Ryan, Greg, and Wallace were able to get the flight back on track but this delay was a costly one hour. Fortunately for the crew, this happened at about 4 am local New York time, so no one was disturbed; but it got them all thinking that maybe a computer upgrade was in order...
In mid March, 2010, the crew flew to Sydney, Australia through Los Angeles. Because this flight was arranged in the middle of spring break, there were numerous empty seats in the cabin. Qantas 108 heavy flew well for 24 hours, and it not only marks their longest flight but also their longest amount of time spent without sleep.
Throughout the summer of 2010, Wallace had his mind set on software upgrades to add another layer of realism to the Shack. He finally concluded on the following: The Level-D 767-300ER, FSDreamteam's Chicago O'hare (KORD) and Las Vegas's McCarran (KLAS). They were all purchased. The last thing that came up was the use of VATSIM. For those who are not familiar with the program, VATSIM is an online service that connects flight simulator pilots and air traffic controllers. Radio communications and procedures are handled as close to real life as possible. Controllers must be trained and pass exams in order to be controllers on VATSIM. It is a very legitimate and well run system -- perfect for usage for The Shack.
As the end of 2010 approached, the crew concluded that the next flight would be to Milan, Italy. On December 17, 2010, one year after the flight to Germany, Delta 160 took off and arrived on schedule in Milan. It was yet another success and pleasurable experience for all.
Now, with countless more flights and hours of experience under their belts, the Shack is really becoming the reality Ryan and Wallace dreamt it to be. It is a cockpit, a cabin with various classes, and a dream come true. Ryan and Wallace have plans for future hardware additions such as a Flight Management Computer (FMC) and eventually a brand new computer. In the long term, they have plans similar to the original dream of a full scale simulator: an “as real as it gets” cockpit in a trailer and take it across America. This may sound ridiculous, but they’ll never know unless they try.
On behalf of the Shack, thank you for reading and for your continued support