Interview With Paul Clawson FSX Aircraft Developer
When did you start developing for flight simulators and what
got you interested in it?
I have been an aviation enthusiast all my life. I learned how to
fly when I was 16 and got my PPL on my 17th birthday (took my Mother
for her first ride that day.) I graduated from college with a BS in
Mechanical Engineering in 1954 and went to work at Boeing in Seattle.
I saw the Boeing 367-80 (707 prototype) make its first flight. I
later moved to Southern California and worked at North American
Aviation and Hughes Aircraft Company. I continued to fly privately
but had to give it up due to real life and the increasing costs to
rent an airplane.
I retired in 1998 and bought my first computer. I soon discovered
FlightSim.Com and the world of flight simulation. A couple of days
later I purchased Flight Simulator 98 and I was hooked. I flew the
default airplanes to death and then started installing add-on
aircraft. This really increased my enjoyment of the simulator. The
retired engineer in me came out and said, gee, wouldn’t it be nice to
design and fly your own airplanes? I discovered most of the add-ons
available were created with a program called Flight Shop. It was no
longer available. Fortunately, Abacus had just started marketing a
program called Aircraft Factory 99. It was based on Flight Shop and
did offer a few improvements such as allowing a greater number of
parts or components before hiccuping all over the monitor. I
purchased this program and went to work. In my opinion, this was a
very difficult program to use (more about that is written below).
However, it was the only program that would compile into FS98. I
managed to muddle through with it and produced five projects I
considered worthy of releasing to the public. My first release (here
at FlightSim.com) was an
dated Feb. 6, 2000. I am now 81 and it is still a thrill to see one
of my creations take to flight.
Tell us about the nature of your designs and what you
I tend to focus on vintage aircraft. My creations range from the
early 1920’s to around 1960. I have seen a lot of them in real life.
I also am a fan of carrier ops. You will see many vintage carrier
planes in my files.
What do you consider your best or most popular
I would say my model of the Martin MB-2 bomber and the Sauders Roe
SR-45 “Princess” flying boat are the best I’ve done. The MB-2 was
the most zit-free project I remember and the SR-45 strained FSDS to
the limit. I had to create several new entries to the modeldef.xml
list to get all ten of those props spinning together and rotating the
I am always in awe of the fact Gen. Billy Mitchell loaded a 2000
lb bomb on a MB-2 and flew it out to sea and dropped it accurately
enough to sink a WW1 German battleship in the early ’20’s… That was
the true start of Naval Aviation.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of a
A real challenge is finding reference material, especially
drawings for a lot of the vintage projects I do. The upside to this,
is that I find many fellow flight sim enthusiasts are willing to
help. I have made life long friends in Australia, South Africa,
Russia, and several countries in Europe. I also enjoy doing things
that “can’t be done”. I was the first to develop a method of
catapulting a sea plane off the deck of a battleship. For example,
my FSX version of the USS New Jersey has an accurate model of the
Navy P-6 catapult. It is set up for single float seaplanes like the
Curtiss SOC-3 Sea Gull which are equipped with Rob Barendregt’s
rcbco-30 catapult gauge. I also developed a true VTOL plane in my
FS2004 model of the Convair XFY-1 Pogo. Rob Barendregt also created
the VTOL xml gauge that makes this model work. Please note this
model does not work in FSX.
Modelling virtual cockpits is still a trial for me. There is
something about the perspective that gives me fits! I do add them to
my aircraft but my VC’s will possibly always be a little less
What have been your favorite projects?
On any given day my current project is always my favorite. I fly
my current project a lot so the real test is to see which past models
have the staying power. My all time favorite is my Cessna 120. I
learned how to fly at a Cessna dealership in 1948-49 and all my time
was in 120’s and 140’s. My logbook (the real one) shows over half my
time was in a Cessna 120 N2098V. My FSX Acceleration native model is
here at FlightSim.Com. The planes that I tend to load up first in
FSX are the 120, the Waco Model E, Berliner Joyce OJ-2 and the
Handley Page HP-42 depending on what type of flight I desire.