Nestled in an office building just off 9th Street is the inconspicuous office of a small company that has taken the world by storm. The remote-controlled model plane world, that is. Knife Edge is the leading producer of flight simulators for remote-controlled planes, and their software is used around the world by hobbyists and expert pilots alike.
Flying model planes is a tough hobby to get into as a beginner. Even small mistakes and crashes can mean repairing or replacing the plane, which are often costly or require knowledge a beginner simply can’t possess. Because of this, it’s easy to become discouraged and give up before learning enough to even be able to manage repairs on your own. That’s where RealFlight, Knife Edge’s flagship product, comes in. RealFlight is a simulator that allows people to fly a virtual aircraft so they become comfortable with flying positions and techniques without risking damage to an actual aircraft.
In the Beginning
Scott Kemp was an amateur radio-controlled aviation hobbyist living in Corvallis when he came up with the idea for an encyclopedia aimed at fellow hobbyists. It would contain all the information a beginner would need, as well as videos explaining step-by-step how to put together a model. He pitched it to Great Planes, a manufacturer of model planes, and as an aside, included a simulator he had programmed earlier just as a fun side project. Great Planes was more intrigued by the simulator, however, so Scott decided to mass produce it with his wife Angela helping out by creating the artwork for it, and Knife Edge was born.
Knife Edge not only designs and develops their software, but they also do test runs with planes using their simulators (nearby Adair Village has a good flying field). Released 17 years ago, RealFlight is their most popular simulator and can be used with a wide variety of aircraft including airplanes, helicopters, and gliders. Over the years, it has been improved upon and now is able to simulate flying at night, float-plane flying, and gamification through multi-player capability.
RealFlight comes with one of two USB hardware devices that connect the software (on your computer) with a transmitter (one is Knife Edge’s transmitter and one is a connector between your computer and your own transmitter).
A few one-off models have been released, including some that come with actual aircraft and a basic version with a more stripped-down feature set and lower price. As of now, however, RealFlight is the company’s only product. Great Planes handles all the packaging, marketing, physical manufacturing (the software comes on physical disc), staffing a tech support team, and getting the product on store shelves.
Who Uses This, Anyways?
The market for remote control simulators is a niche yet substantial, reaching the U.S., Japan, Russia and many other countries all over the world; anyone from novices to experts to professionals use it. In fact, in one episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, one character is seen using RealFlight. Corvallis may be a small college town, but in this one area, Kemp and crew keep our little burg soaring above the competition.
By Catherine Stevens