Interview: Insight into the Virtual Team60
One area which has always been of interest for us is the graceful world of virtual airshows. In the past we have followed these interests by talking to our friends over at the Frecce Tricolori Virtuali (FTV) and with their spokesperson and our friend, Duke. It has been quite a while since we had those interviews with the FTV, so we decided to contact another excellent Digital Combat Simulator World virtual demonstration team who has been making quite the name for themselves lately: Virtual Team60.
We contacted the leader of the Virtual Team 60, Fredrik "Breadmaker" and asked him if he would discuss how the virtual aerobatic teams works, what their story is and a bit about the aircraft they fly. I personally extend my thanks to Fredrik for allowing us to have this interview with us. This is part one of two of this interview. Next time we will be talking with Fredrik about the Saab Sk.60 project for DCS World!
First off, we’d like to thank you for agreeing to have this interview with us. Could you start by introducing yourself and telling us a bit about what you do?
Thanks for having me! My name is Fredrik, callsign Breadmaker, and I’m a guy from Sweden who has had an interest in aviation in general and military aviation specifically since I was a kid. When I was young my dream was to become a fighter pilot, but life took another path so that didn’t happen. So I was quite happy when I discovered DCS a couple of years ago. Of course I had to fly the Viggen since that’s one of the most recognizable Swedish military aircraft ever.
After having flown military type of missions for a while I also discovered that there are people doing close formation flights and airshow replications, and that really caught my interest. First I started doing formation flights with a few friends, and a little bit later I joined the Virtual Al Fursan as the number 7 pilot. That team ended up falling apart unfortunately so I was left without a team to fly with, but I still wanted to do it.
What was the motivation for forming Team60?
Around the same time as the Virtual Al Fursan had fallen apart I had started talking to a few friends about trying to make an SK60 mod for DCS. At first it was just a crazy idea, but we soon realized we were actually going to be able to make it and that’s when the idea of forming a Virtual Team 60 came to life. For Swedish aviation enthusiast, the real Team 60 certainly has a special place in their hearts.
Unfortunately the team isn’t active anymore. But when they were, and especially at their peak, they were one of the most recognizable display teams in the world. So to have the opportunity to pay homage to the work they’ve done in a virtual environment felt like something we just had to do.
For how long has the team been active and in which shows have you performed?
The team started in the summer last year (2021). It took a while to nail down the final team lineup, but in August we had all six members in place and started doing regular practice sessions (once a week). At first we needed to just get to know each other and figure out who was going to fly what position, but when we had achieved that we started looking at our first program to learn.
We decided to try and replicate the program the real team made on the Swedish Airforce annual airshow in 2018. We felt like the difficulty of that show was on a level that would be a good enough challenge for us. After having practiced it a bit we decided to sign up for our first show – the Virtual International Air Festival which was held in December of 2021. So far that’s the only show we’ve done but we’re currently working hard on preparing for the next one. 😊
Team60 seems to be extremely passionate about what they do. What is the current composition of the team?
Yes indeed we are! When we started the team, none of us had much experience in flying in a virtual display group before. One of the guys didn’t even have a computer when we first got in contact. So everyone has really been a key part in building the team from the ground up and we have been working hard together to not only get better as individuals, but as a whole unit. And I really think the hard work has paid off. If you knew how it looked when we first flew and compare it to how it is not, the progress is just amazing. I’m super proud of the guys in the team! The current active flying members of the team is as follows:
#1: Fredrik (Breadmaker) Elm – Team Captain and founder. Also leads the SK60 development team.
#2: Ola (Bulletproof) Rådeström – Flies inner right wing Diamond formation
#3: Nino (Propilot) Glad – Flies inner left wing in the Diamond formation
#4: Kalle (Bobcat) Dådring – Flies slot in the Diamond formation
#5: Casper (Ghost) Nilsson – Flies outer left wing in the Diamond formation & solo
#6 Tim (Jugg) Jansson – Flies outer right wing in the Diamond formation & lead solo
Besides these guys we also have a few “reserve” pilots who sometimes fill in during practice sessions if one of the regular members can’t fly that day and also some other “crew” members which aren’t as clearly defined. The Virtual Team 60 is also functioning as testers for the SK60 mod developers so some guys who aren’t necessarily flying with us during our training are also in a sense a part of the team, but have a more technical role.
How closely does the team follow the routines of the real Team60?
We try to follow them as close as we can. We’re actually in pretty close contact with a few of the old pilots from the real team who have been helping us out tremendously. Mostly we study what ever material we can find on the internet (Youtube videos mostly) to try and get an understanding of how the team flew their displays. But we also get first hand information from the pilots which provides a whole lot more detail regarding how the maneuvers are performed and what you need to think about and so on. We’re really trying hard to pay as much tribute as we can to the real Team 60 so to have their support means the world to us!
Has the virtual Team60 been in contact with members of the real Team60? If so, in which aspects have they helped the virtual counterpart?
As I said in the last question, yes we have! We actually met a few of them a couple of weeks ago and let them fly a bit on our computers. It was an AMAZING experience to be able to connect with them in that way. One of the founding members sent us a really encouraging message after we met them which is something that we in the Virtual Team 60 are going to carry with us with humility and pride for a very long time.
How do you guys tackle training for the air show season? Do you run over the entire routine from the start in each training session or are maneuvers practiced individually?
We have scheduled practice sessions every Monday night. But then it varies a bit depending on what time of the year it is and how soon it is to the next show. Currently, for example, it’s summer here in Sweden so we’re not focusing quite as hard on practicing super seriously every week. Most of us have families and so on that also need their fair share of time, and especially during summer it can be hard to put aside the time to fly in DCS every week.
Those of us who aren’t occupied with anything else though try to meet up and do at least some type of flying as often as we can so we don’t loose our form completely. We have a routine that we’re practicing for the next show and if all pilots can fly during a session we most often run through that show – even if it’s a bit more laid back at the moment. When fall comes though we’re going to be more focused and strategic about nailing down the details.
I think this gives us a good balance between seriousness and fun. I truly believe that when you’re doing something like this in your spare time you can’t be too serious about it (unless everyone agrees on that of course…). For us it’s important that we have fun together. One the one hand I think all of the team would agree that part of what makes it fun is the feeling of making progress and seeing that it actually looks good when we fly, and that takes a fair bit of dedication, but it always needs to be balanced so it still feels like a hobby and not a job.
Does the team have any trainees at the moment? What would you recommend someone who would like to join your team?
Not at the moment. Since we only started last year the Team is pretty fresh still. All of the guys are very dedicated and show no sign of stopping. My standpoint as the Leader of the team is that if someone has a place in the team and they want to keep it, it’s theirs. All of us are very well understood in what it means to have an active spot and understand what’s required to keep that spot and be a valuable part of the team. So no, there are no trainees and currently no openings. If that changes in the future, we’ll let people know. 😊
What are some memorable airshows the team has flown in the past? Are there any you'd suggest for new viewers to watch first?
Well... We have only flew one so I’d suggest you go look at that one. It isn’t perfect by any means but if you take into consideration that we did our first ever practice session in August of 2021 and then flew that show in December the same year I think you could at least say we did a pretty decent job. The video can be found below:
Which would you consider to be the most complex maneuver which has been performed during one of your shows?
We have a maneuver in the show we’re working on now which is a bit tricky. Pilots #1 - #4 has just done a flyby and are heading out a bit from the airfield to let the Solos do one of their maneuvers. After a few seconds we turn back in and while approaching the airfield I have to roll upside down while still flying level (so the guys who fly off me won’t get lost). As soon as I’m inverted, #2 & #3 also goes inverted. #4 flies in slot behind me and #2 and #3 flies off of his wing. We then do a flyby over the runway like this before rolling back out and changing to a right echelon formation. What makes it really tricky is that it needs to happen very fast but very controlled. If anyone messes up it’s gonna look bad when we pass the crowd. Another tricky one is the “Sandwich roll” that the Solos do. They fly toward the display line, #5 rolls over and flies inverted, #6 joins and flies right underneath him. When passing the runway threshold, they put their smoke on and do a barrel roll in this formation. It’s awesome!
Just like many airshow teams in DCS, Team60 has developed their own aircraft. How much influence has the aerobatic had in the development of the Sk60?
That’s correct! I’d say it has had a very big impact. Getting the flight model correct and the visual appearance has been super important in allowing us to replicate the real team’s maneuvers. The mod isn’t actually going to be strictly Team 60 though. We’re also giving it some light attack and trainer capabilities before we’re going to release it to the public. There are some parts of it that will be exclusive to the Virtual Team 60 though, but I won’t tell you what. 😊
When flying the Sk.60 in airshows, what are some of its notable flight characteristics?
Since the SK60 is a trainer aircraft it’s very stable in the air. This is a good thing when doing the big formations as it provides a very smooth flying experience. It’s a bit tricky though when we need to do some more “aggressive” maneuvers. For example, the roll rate isn’t super fast. Especially if you fly below 300kts and in some cases that can be tricky. But if you learn how to treat the aircraft in those situations you can still do it. This is one of the moments where the feedback and input from the real pilots are super helpful! They can tell us how they actually used to do it, which removes the guesswork for us. Does the Sk.60's side-by-side two-seat configuration have any impact on formation references when flying with multiple aircraft?
Not very much. Of course, it’s going to differ a little bit depending on whether you fly right wing or left wing. But it’s hardly noticeable. I’d say it’s most apparent when you’re flying slot since you can’t place your head directly behind the tail of the aircraft in front of you but you have to be a little bit to the side. It’s also noticeable for me who flies in the front of the whole formation. If I look out to my left I can clearly see #3 and #5 just below my wing. If I look to the right though there’s half a cockpit in the way.
That will be it, thank you so much for answering our interview! Is there anything else you would like to add before we conclude?
Thank you! Hope you found what I had to share interesting! If you want to know more about us and just get in touch with us in general – feel free to join our Discord server. Thanks for your time!
About the Interviewer
Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos
Longtime aviation fanatic with particular preference towards military aviation and its history. Said interests date back to the early 2000's leading into his livelong dive into civil and combat flight simulators. He has been involved in a few communities but only started being active around the mid 2010's. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as a writer and the co-founder of Skyward ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034