VRChat Aviation Events and Organizations Reach New Heights
March 2021 should be marked down as the month VRChat (VRC) aviation reached a new height. This month had multiple aviation events and announcements that garnered attention across a broad spectrum of people. This indicates a sustained and growing number of active users and creators that have expanded interest to a point where public and private aviation events have become somewhat commonplace. As discussed in a previous article, since April 2020, the VRChat aviation community has steadily expanded. The number of flight-focused worlds is still increasing, 3D modelers continue to design new aircraft, and the accessibility for all-in-one VR headsets like the Oculus Quest 2 is becoming a factor in world design. To understand the significance of this month, an overview of events and organizations is needed to express how far organized VRChat aviation has come. Overview of Events and Organizations The first public events were free flight days hosted in March 2020 by Blue Horizons, a Japanese aerobatic demonstration team. Since then, they have consistently put on 1 to 3 airshows every month for over a year straight with their Free Flight days. Their popularity and consistency propelled them to perform aerobatics at other events like the VR music Midsummer Sound Festival 2020 from July 31st to August 2nd, 2020, and the opening day of the VR first-person shooter world, "Shooting Battle VRC," on January 17th, 2021. Formal player vs. player tournaments began with the first Dog Fight Event on September 26th, 2020. After a second tournament, a Japanese organization, VRC Air Force, was formed to plan and host future aviation events. On October 30th, 2020, the third Dog Fight Event's success made them semi-official leading Japanese VRChat aviation event organization. Since then, they continue to focus on hosting more PvP tournaments, practice sessions for potential new contestants, and the first air racing tournament on January 9th, 2021. VVFA-103, an American organization, began hosting PVP tournaments on January 21st, 2021. Like the Japanese hosted events, their tournaments draw an international VRC aviation enthusiast crowd. Posters for their events appear in other aviation worlds, which further piqued interest in the English-speaking user base. All of this represents the efforts of organizers and world creators collaborating to host more events. This brings us to March 2021 - a month that these efforts culminated in the most active VRC aviation event month on record. VRC Joint Festival The VRC Joint Festival was a three-day event of multiple Japanese performers putting on public demonstrations and coordinating starting times. From March 12th-14th, 2021, at 2200 JST each day, groups of spectators went to enjoy three distinct aviation exhibitions. Day 01 - Solo Acrobat Event Video by nankotu 360. On day one, a new solo acrobat performance by xmiyabix started the festival off with an only in VRChat style display. With a pink SF-1 aircraft generating flowing energy wings, the display began with the aircraft launching from the hilt of a massive broadsword thrust into a mountainside. This display included pyrotechnics and laser lights, this display's highlight maneuver was a unique pink butterfly created by the aircraft's air show smoke. Day 02 - DankeWorks Flight Event Video by nankotu 360. Day two took place on the futuristic aircraft carrier created by Danke☆Yui. The day started with the audience moved to the aircraft carrier's bow to enjoy a tandem catapult launch. This was followed by a five-ship formation display and a low altitude, high energy dogfight directly over the crowd with pumping electronic music. Afterward, the audience was brought inside the aircraft carrier into a combat information center (CIC) with limited functions. From the CIC, aircraft could be seen marshaling to catapults and launching from the deck. While airborne, aircraft information was displayed on a monitor that showed the callsigns and BRA (bearing, range, altitude) of allied aircraft and the waypoints their combat air patrol route followed. Communications between the combat aircraft and CIC personnel used actual military aviation terms and procedures to intercept, identify and shoot down hostile aircraft that entered the area of operation. The DankeWorks display was the most elaborate of the three-day festival. Day 03 - Blue Horizons' 1st Anniversary Day three featured the now veteran Blue Horizons aerobatic team as they celebrated their first anniversary. Their airborne display was accompanied by a live musical performance of Interstellar Flight from Macross Frontier covered by Angelic Teemo. After the flight team gave opening remarks, they took to the skies while the vocalist sang on stage. Though the event had a limited number "in-person" spectator slots, it was live-streamed for others to watch. In retrospect, the celebration of a year of consistent Blue Horizons operations had more weight to it than one might think. This team flew with the legacy VRC flight system and mastered the current generation Sacc Flight System. It is their example of organized air shows that inspired others to eventually do their own events. VVFA-103 March 2021 Dogfight Tournament Video by Ace Combat Fan. Unrelated to the VRC Joint Festival, the third dogfight tournament by VVFA-103 was on March 20th, 2021. Much like how the VRC Air Force came into a semi-official position as the leading Japanese event organization, VVFA-103 has also fit into a similar position. Their third guns only dogfight tournament went smoothly from start to finish, with a few last-second competitor bracket reworks. From the peak of a mountain, the audience and competitors could watch the aerial battles with either the standard viewing screens or look to the sky themselves if combat was happening directly above them. After the tourney's end and trophy ceremony, an aerial performance by the leaders of VVFA-103 introduced new aircraft that will undoubtedly be seen in upcoming events and worlds they create. With their scheduled events going up to three to four months in the future, they'll surely continue to grow. VRC Flight Academy This announcement came late in the month, on March 29th, 2021. The VRC Flight Academy's upcoming launch symbolizes how people passionate about aviation in VRChat want to spread interest in aviation as a whole. While the flying in VRC is undoubtedly not a 1:1 flight simulator, users with virtual reality headsets and touch controllers will still be interacting with a system comparable to an actual hands-on throttle and stick found in real-world aircraft. In public instances of aviation worlds, it's uncommon to find patient and knowledgeable people willing to teach complete newcomers the basics and get them flying successfully. While a self-taught tutorial flight world was introduced in January 2021, something like a structured academy that can give people the basics and potentially push them to become a more significant part of the community in the long-run is a very forward-thinking decision. With VRChat being such an informal social platform in general, the fact that enough people agreed to cooperate to create an established educational course is noteworthy. Even with as involved as I've been with VRC aviation, I find myself consistently surprised and impressed. What sort of new feature, concept, or event the aviators and creators of this community will launch next is hard to guess. Many of the ideas for future developments and events are started in the passing conversations of friends dogfighting in a late afternoon or while watching the latest high-flying air demo with dozens of other enthusiasts. But after one year of consistent growth, it's clear they won't be disappearing from their virtual skies anytime soon. About the Writer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating flight game-related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He explores past and present flight games and simulators with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. Read Staff Profile.