AMA with Laura Laban

May, 10, 2020 by

Yesterday, we had an AMA “Ask Me Anything” with Laura Laban, where the members in our community got a chance to ask her questions.

Laura holds a PPL and is the CEO, co-founder, and developer of Infinite Flight. She lives in France and enjoys flying taildraggers like the Citabria and XCub. Here is the full AMA start to finish.

Is this going to be true that everything can be added into IF once Project Metal is done because of its graphic engine?

A lot more things can be done once Project Metal is implemented. It’s actually going to unlock a few things we can’t do right now because of our architecture. It is based on a graphics engine that has limitations. Project Metal gives us more control to add things like buildings, clouds. We could do them before, but not as efficiently.

How do you approach high-pressure situations when everything goes wrong? I understand coding is very complex so I was wondering this as it could also help outside of the multiplex world of coding.

When everything goes wrong, I actually strangely enjoy it. It’s like a diversion in a flight. You gotta figure out a solution, and if nothing works, find a hack that’s going to help, or workaround until a better solution is found. It’s quite exciting. It also depends greatly on my mood and how tired I am. Some issues are not fun.

In your opinion which was the hardest aircraft to work on in the fleet so far and why?

Hardest airplane… They all have a thing or two that sets them apart, but fighters are hard because of how they behave.

What are some of the development challenges you have encountered with 20.1?

Plenty of challenging things for this one… It was gearing up to be a simple one with just the 777, then it grew bigger… and the biggest challenge is something we haven’t shown yet.

Does pineapple belong on pizza?

I’m not a pizza person, but I generally don’t like salt/sweet in the same dish…

What made you decide to create Infinite Flight? How did you get the team that you have right now?

I started Infinite Flight kind of randomly… I was in school working on a game project, mostly on physics so that motivated me to tinker with vehicles, and then planes. I had thought of contributing to FlightGear but it was too hard to get into it. Fun story, I applied to work as an intern at Laminar back then Austin didn’t want to try the sim because it didn’t run on linux/apple if I remember right.

We got the team organically. Philippe and I were school mates, but started working together on IF after a few years at NVIDIA. The rest of the team were people we knew like Kevin, & Val, then it was mainly in the community. People who stood out.

What are some of the challenges involved with trying to make the Infinite Flight team grow? What are your priorities when it comes to expansion in other departments?

Main thing is that people are all remote, so vetting is super important. We’re also looking for people who are extremely independent and self driven. Personalities also have to fit with the rest of the team. We need a mix a serious and sketchy.

What is your favourite aircraft to fly in the sim and why?

I like the A318, it’s like a baby bunny. Such a cute little plane that can land in many places.

How did you start your programming a career? Do you only do iOS development or you also do BAckend/Android?

I started in high school on Casio calculators, then did 2 years in a college type environment, then 4 years of engineering type school in Paris. (Epitech). After that I got an internship at NVIDIA and quit 6 years later to work on Infinite Flight.

I mainly do Windows dev. iOS/Android are cross compiled with Xamarin so we rarely have to touch any of the iOS/Android languages. Just the API’s through wrappers.

What in Infinite Flight was or is the most challenging feature to code, past or future?

Most challenging feature… Autopilot and the Flight Model…

Do you think that over time, new aircrafts that are going to be added to Infinite Flight or reworks are going to take more and more time to make as there are more things to add?

That’s very likely yes. Back then, we could ship a plane once the model was done, not we have all these animations, the cockpit displays, etc… that takes more time and adds more bugs.

What stage of development do you enjoy the most and why? ( eg. Deciding what to add/adding it/beta/release)

I love when we just shipped, the version is stable, we can go and dev cool stuff, explore things and figure out what can make it into the sim. That’s by far my fav part.

How much swearing occurs when we post “Still an issue” in beta?

Oh so much… so, so much… It’s like reading that I’m an idiot every morning when I go through the list for the day.

Let’s say every single Infinite Flight application and every single backup ever made gets deleted. Everything is gone and there’s no way to recover anything: How long would it take you to re-code everything up to 19.4 and is there anything you’d do differently?

I think it would take a couple of years, maybe 3, hard to guess.
Things I’d do differently, go global from the beginning.

From a business perspective, how does heading possibly the most advanced mobile flight simulator a challenge to you? What are strategies you use to overcome these challenges?

Philippe and I are not business people, so we learned as we went. Gut feeling has been a good indicator so far. Things like Live started as a side project for me, then it grew insane. Key here is to iterate.

Developing Infinite Flight I’m sure for you is a ton of fun. But no matter what jobs we have and how much we love them, we must always set aside time to decompress. Can you tell us what you like to do to de-stress and tell us a little more about what you enjoy doing for fun with your time outside of Infinite Flight?

When I can, I go fly… and if I can’t, then I fly in Infinite Flight, code something I want to build in there for fun. It’s also my hobby. Other things I enjoy of course is spending time with the family, playing Minecraft with the kids, biking, etc.

Do you have any tips for aspiring pilots like myself?

Use flight sims before you start, they get your brain started on many concepts. Also, fly a taildragger during training, or whenever you have your PPL. Sharpens the stick and rudder skills.

Did you ever think Infinite Flight would become this popular?

I thought people would enjoy it, but not that it would become this big. I didn’t really think of how big it was going to grow. I see things more in terms of features we can add. If the features are cool, people will come and stay.

Who is your inspiration to aspire aviation

I’m not sure, I have an aviation related genetic mutation in my family. None of my family members are into aviation at all, I just got hooked when my brother brought home a copy of FS95 or 5.1 a looooooong time ago. I was begging him to let me play when he wasn’t around.

What is name of your cat?

Cat is Milo.

How is it operating a small aircraft around the congested northeast airspace?

It’s actually pretty chill. US Controllers are always cool. New York feels more intense than California though.

How has coronavirus change the development of Infinite Flight? What has been the most difficult things during this time to overcome and has there been any positives from the coronavirus? Since the Infinite Flight team all work remotely I would imagine there hasn’t been much change in the way you work as a team.

There hasn’t been operational impact since we’re always working remotely. Morale though has sometimes fluctuated. We also waited to see how Apple was going to handle things. Didn’t want them to close the store at some point. So we added a few more things. That’s another reason why it took more time. I’ve read people saying this event should have had no impact on us but it impacted everybody in some ways. It’s been pretty grim out there.

Has not being able to attend Oshkosh or other events affected your marketing side of things. I would imagine that these events are places for you to get new customers. Do you think that this will affect the growth of Infinite Flight?

I’m not sure, perhaps yeah. We’ll be able to compare with last year. It’s going to give us more time to dev though.

What technology/developers/sim platforms do you look for for inspiration or are impressed by, that drive your efforts to take Infinite Flight to the next level?

I don’t look at other platforms much. I actually don’t have any other sims installed on my machine. Inspiration came a lot from Flight Unlimited 2 and 3. Immersion was amazing in those.
The rest is mainly spent looking at real life. We’re simulating it, so any delta between the sim and real life has to be reduced.

As a company, what do you seek to continue giving the attention as one of the top flight simulators on mobile. Do you plan on continuing to expand? Do you have plans for the many years ahead? Are you waiting for the software and devices to improve before adding new features?

In other words: Do you think you’ll continue as a company for the many years to come? (Say like 1 or 2 decades) Do you think you’ll keep adding new technology not seen in a simulator on mobile if not PC before, and do you think as time goes on you’ll expand to a more large staff team, opening more opportunities for the great editors and designers already out in our community?

I’m not thinking that far ahead. I’d like to see buildings and weather at some point. Then we have all the main blocks. It’s just going to be about improving each of them iteratively. One thing I’m waiting for is VR. I think VR is the perfect medium for flight simulators. Apple needs to build one though as all the other attempts had too much friction to get started.

About expanding, I don’t know, I like the fact that we’re lean, but you never know.

So there are times I use Infinite Flight flight tracking apps to check on my flight when I’m away from my device and I see almost all the dev team flying from time to time, except Phillippe, doesn’t he fly?

Philippe is our metal guy, he enjoys working on the engine, not the flying part. It’s great though because when he uses the app, he has the eyes of a non experienced pilot which contrasts with us flight sim nerds who look over a few things sometimes. Now, Philippe is a huge Eve Online nerd, so when Infinite Flight expands to space, expect to see him more there.

Would you ever consider doing a non-plane related release to focus on UI/Map/AP enhancements? I bet you have an overflowing trello board (or sticky notes) but you cant get to it because of those darn planes.

I’d like to ship an update with just features at some point yeah. this update has quite a bit of small little quality of life fixes, so it’s a bit of that.

What’s the best piece of advice that you can give to someone who is getting into coding? I’ve just begun the journey and even though I’m learning the small stuff, even that is complicated.

Code with a purpose. Coding nonsense projects is not fun. When you have a goal in mind, say, something you want to build for Infinite Flight or for yourself, then it gets more interesting than just coding some exercise you can’t relate to. It makes being a beginner more fun.

What has been 1 thing that you’ve been dying to get added into the sim?

B.u.i.l.d.i.n.g.s. You have no idea how much… Now, some dev work has already started on this, but we have nothing to share at the moment.

If you are new to finding Infinite Flight, download it on the App Store or Google Play Store and give it a try. You can find Infinite Flight on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Follow Laura on Twitter and Instagram.

If you’d like to join in discussions such as this with like-minded people like yourself and experts in the field, to learn and improve, I’d encourage you to sign up for our community. Upcoming guests

Kyle Boas is the Founder of the IFATC Education Group. He is an IFATC Supervisor and Infinite Flight Appeals team member. — More