The history of Rikoooo.com
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Identification formWebsite address : http://www.rikoooo.com
Website nature : Computer air simulation
Registration : Free, gifts are possible
Owner : Erik Bender
Launching year : 2005
2/Background history - Developpment - Future
Rikoooo.com is a French website devoted to flight simulation on computer, mostly dedicated to Microsoft “Flight Simulator”, with some elements about “Laminar Research” and “X-Plane”. Since Francesim.com’s regretted disappearance, specialized French press considered Rikoooo.com as the major French website on the subject.
It offers, in exchange of a free registration (notion of sharing), a lot of downloads, such as airplanes, seaplanes, helicopters and gliders of any time as well as sceneries. All these files are fitted with an automatic installer.
Air routes to fly are available, in the form of flight plans coming from aeronautic, geographic, historic and literary heritage. Some of these routes are used by websites to organize network flights, such as YQUET-Aviation.
A lot of tutorials and tips are available too, thanks to a very active forum; an internal search engine facilitates, via key words, a quick access to solutions, about simulators and add-ons issues (approximately 140.000 messages stocked and indexed).
In the same way as its Anglo-Saxon’s equivalents (Avsim, FlightSim, FS Dome etc…), the website had met a lot of technical issues or other problems year by year, especially on the forum, where anonymously, some people were involved in verbal excesses; it isn’t, in these cases, speculative bubbles but communicative ones.
This phenomenon had already happened in the 80’s, when some Parisian free radios, such as Carbone 14, had begun telephonic interactivity; using telephonic anonymity, some listeners allowed themselves these kind of behavior.
The solution consists to limit the access to the forum, via a real identification of the users. However, because of Erik Bender’s (the creator) relentlessness, Rikoooo.com managed against all the odds, to grow to the point of having a radio report on “France Inter”, on December 2009 (Carnets de Campagne / Philippe Bertrand).
Members’ identification forms show that there’s a striking penetration all over the world, as much in French-speaking countries and even in English-speaking ones. Members’ geographic positions, including their forms, authorize them to contact other member, which allows meetings and groupings.
2/Background history - Developpment - Future
Created in 2005 by Erik Bender, living around Toulouse (THE French aeronautic place), he began by uploading airplanes made by various developers. He always asks for authorizations to put them on the website.
Rikoooo.com’s frequentation is regularly increasing till November 2008, when Bender struck a decisive blow with the “AirFrance pack”. Resulting of two years of work, this 270 MB package brings together the essential of the airline’s fleet, with patiently discovered modellings all around the world. Firstly uploaded for FS9, a FSX compatible version has been published in April 2010, and these two packages were downloaded 113.000 times, which is the highest figure ever recorded among the 300 files available on the website today. That same year, almost two million downloads were noted out of all the packages available on Rikoooo.com.
Just before, at the end of 2007, Erik Bender had created an “Article” section, through Michel Lagneau, trainer by trade, who is thinking that flying with neither reasons nor destination, even virtually is similar to the expression “talk for the sake of talking", began in 2008 to put online flight plans from some heritages above-mentioned. His purpose is to use the simulator as a learning tool other than the “educative approach” of piloting and aerial navigation. Among forty routes as an author, some of them, with the participation of the aeronautic French historian Robert Espérou and Fernande Bonnemain for the “Compagnie Franco Roumaine de Navigation Aérienne” (CFRNA) of the 20s, Michel Lagneau surprised everybody with the publication during autumn 2009, in French and with the author’s authorization, of Peter Askovich’s log book, who created during 2003/2004 a 160 stopping-point world tour with Flight Simulator 2004 (FS9). Thanks to this 35,000 kilometers ambitious trek over both hemispheres, commented by him, and going along with a photograph album, Askovich, demonstrating a praiseworthy patience for 9 months of trip, pulls out this software from the PC game category where it is commercially bound. Michel Lagneau enriched the French version with encyclopedic commentaries about the overflown places, opening way for what he calls: an encyclopedic approach with Flight Simulator. But before that, Peter Askovich can be considered as a precursor of the “serious game”, as well asRikoooo.com which is the translation’s host, mentioned in the French specialized press. Michel Lagneau wrote “Petite Histoire de l’Aviation sous Flight Simulator” the year after.
At the first semester of 2011, in collaboration with the Canadian David Malloch and the American Jim Douglas, he innovates again with the publication of two biographical essays with Flight Simulator on Rikoooo.com. The first one concerns the Quebecer pilot Jacques R. Hébert, and the other one, the Australian flying doctor Clyde Corwall Fenton, both unknown in Europe, and bring us back to the 30’s. David Malloch and Michel Lagneau undertook to collect historic information, especially from Pierre Thiffault, historian for the Aerovision foundation at Quebec. Jim Douglas, for his part, created the De Havilland DH 60 Gipsy Moth for the Simulator, assisted by David Malloch to make specific liveries. This plane had been used by both pilots in question and is available at FlightSim.com.
On July 2011, Erik Bender reiterates his idea of a complete package, with that time, the Emirates’ fleet and announced, looking at the success achieved, his intention to keep up in this way. It’s the only example in the freeware development field for FS. It’s done on 16th November 2011 with Egypt Air’s fleet where Bender tries to reduce the gap between “freeware” and “payware” by fitting some aircrafts features that were usually found on “payware add-ons” before.
Several people helped for free Erik Bender as time goes by. At the beginning of 2010, Eddy Belfiore, virtual pilot and video maker, began a full length movie inspired by Askovich’s flight plans and joined Erik Bender as an Administrator, always voluntarily, of Rikoooo.com. The forum, managed by volunteer moderators, has different sections; each one has a precise subject, and it internal movements look like an airport (terminals & gates). It has discussion groups, which are created by members themselves, but also a “Photos” section (3000 pictures) and a “Video” one (1000 videos), which offer to members to present their realizations. 120 000 connections are recorded each month on average, and up to 2000 simultaneously each day, especially when new add-ons are putted online, because members are informed by a newsletter. The website has 80,000 registered people, with 1000 new registrations on average each month, sometimes 2000, with 3 to 5 new add-ons monthly. The website presents a permanent exhibition of Jean-Pierre Michel’s paintings, who is an official painter of Air and Space and a worthy successor of Paul Lengellé (1908-1993). It’s a completely different content, but a great one, when other websites “just” put add-ons online.
Despite that, due to an original content with ambitious projects, Rikoooo.com is a special case inside the hundreds of Flight Simulator & X-plane websites, in the tradition of what was the “Ailes Françaises” history since 100 years.
It also tributes to the North-American PC flight simulation inventor, Bruce Artwick, who gave birth to an international passionate community of all ages, which reminds the bird flight fascination (symbolized by the Icare myth) during the Antiquity. But could he think about that when he created the first flight model? It tributes to aviation precursors too; as the Wright brothers, Clément Ader, and many others: the list is long.
Flight Simulator’s competitor is X-Plane, created by the American Austin Meyer (Laminar Research) in 1988, that is to say about ten years after Bruce Artwick’s first tests. Quickly, Meyer intelligently decided to propose his simulator under Mac, Linux & Windows, contrary to Microsoft who created FS only under Windows. A “squabble” took place, led mostly by some users than the developers themselves. Year by year, we can say that there’s an obvious fact: Flight Simulator, because of his precedence, was quickly spread all over the world because of the airplanes (oldest or newest) and complementary sceneries number we can use with this software. Unfortunately, X-plane isn’t in this case. But his creator Austin Meyer isn’t discouraged, he continually updates his simulator with new versions. Since the beginning of 2010, as Rikoooo.com wanted to be kept way form this trivial war, the X-Plane 9 demo was put online. During the first semester 2012, he created an automatic installer for X-Plane 9 which came with Paul Glanville’s Airbus A320. An automatic installer for X-Plane 10 is coming, and contacts with different developers go on, to propose more X-Plane add-ons. At the same time, FS add-ons putting on-line continue at a sustained rate: we can note the Embraer A-29B Super Tucano by Tim Piglet Conrad and the Los Angeles International Airport (KLAX) scenery by Glen Johnson, among a lot of other ones during the first part of 2012. On December 16th 2011, Rikoooo.com created an account on the social network Facebook. Bender’s target is to maintain a permanent contact with members, but also to promote the website worldwide. During 2012, a new photographic contest was created, managed by Thomas Guiart (tomxsg). Each week, a new theme is proposed and members vote and choose the winner themselves. “Simureal” series, included in this challenge, deserves a special mention: with the same weekly rate, a real aeronautic photo is published and virtual pilots have to reproduce it as faithfully as possible with their simulator. With these shots, published during these friendly competitions, we understand that traditional photography is an integral part of computer air simulation. Michel Lagneau continues his exploration and adaptation of the commercial aviation to restore it with Flight Simulator. Among ten routes published during the first semester 2012, we find on May a new adaptation coming from the literary heritage. It’s “l’Incroyable Randonnée du Pacific Clipper sous Flight Simulator”, from the book « The Long Way Home » by the American Edmund « Ed » Dover, a former radio officer for the Pan American Airways. This book tells the authentic and unknown (in Europe) story of a seaplane, the Boeing 314, of the same airline, booby-trapped in New-Zealand on December 7th 1941, same day of the surprise attack at Pearl Harbour. In view of the dangerousness to go back to California via the Pacific Ocean, Pan Am ordered the crew to bring back the forty tons precious flying liner by flying over Australia, Asia, Middle-East, Africa and Atlantic Ocean. Stopping place after stopping place, we follow the trip thanks to the Australian developer Bruce Kennewell commentaries. Embellished with Michel Lagneau’s chapter IV extract translation, of course with author’s authorization. After the biographical essays concerning Jacques R. Hébert and Clyde Cornwall Fenton, it’s the third international collaboration with an historical connotation carried out with Rikoooo.com. To end with a flourish this first semester 2012, Erik Bender puts online on the 14th of June Royal Air Maroc’s, Atlas-Blue’s & Jet4you’s fleets for FSX, as a free downloading, of course.
A new simulator gets himself talked about, Prepar3D, which was launched in June 2010 by the American company Lockheed-Martin Corporation, two known names in the aeronautic field. The 6th version in published in March 2012. Lockheed-Martin has bought back Microsoft’s FSX license to develop their own simulation software. In Erik Bender’s opinion:”Prepar3D is a FSX second version, popular and with a future! (…) FSX add-ons are Prepar3D compatible and vice versa because they have the same base, improved, in Prepar3D’s case”. According to this and Flight’s failure (Microsoft’s new simulator launched in February 2012 but abandoned 3 months later), Bender decided the permanent versatility of FSX add-ons put online with Prepar3D. At the same time, a second version of the AirFrance’s fleet is prepared, which will include SkySpirit2012’s CRJ1000 (No VC) and hostess announcements who’s now working at AirFrance. As photos contests have a real success, Thoms Guiart (tomxsg) organized during autumn/winter 2012 two big contests (Postcard & Winter Magic) with a partnership with Saitek, which has Joysticks as prizes. Both competitions call up between 100 and 200 contestants which was a real headache for the judges. Otherwise, the Top 20 of each contest show that virtual photography became a proper art.
If 2011 had been the year of all excesses (positive or negative), 2012 saw a serene progress, open-minded to all simulation trends.
At dawn of this new year 2013, the team working with Erik Bender is composed by: Thomas Guiart (tomxsg) co-administrator, Mathieu Fédiakine (Absolam) Rikoooo’s graphics artist & Rikoooo’s logo creator and other visuals, Laurent Lepot (Wolf29) the most ancient moderator and adviser, Julien (Moustikblanc31) moderator and adviser but also a real pilot, Valentin Witon (Airlink) & Jérôme (jejetoulouse) assistant moderators and advisers. And of course Michel Lagneau (michel95) who, since five years, pursues his project to adapt commercial aviation history under Flight Simulator.
As a conclusion, we must wish that Erik Bender and his partners go on with the following idea: imagination in power, and this, using all computers technologies in relation with the Internet, following virtual aviation, which we can’t guess how it’ll be in a few years.