What first looks like a life filled with a series of contradictions begins to fall in line when you consider that for Bruce Williams, knowledge and progress are all that really matter. The job could be technical or whimsical, but the goal is the same—to further one’s learning in unique, accessible, and fun ways.
Williams is best known as the business development manager of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator division, a job he held through all the most popular releases of the software. But he’s no programmer. Williams studied English literature in college, training that got him some writing jobs in aviation and business publications early in his career. He started at Microsoft as a technical editor and worked up to be the business leader. At the time Microsoft was employing pilots, aerospace engineers, and loads of other subject-matter experts to produce the various releases of Microsoft Flight Simulator. “For a lot of people, Flight Sim was this great fantasy,” he says of the product’s massive appeal. “Virtual airlines started before the Internet.”
After retiring from Microsoft in 2004, Williams continued to push simulators as a great tool for learning a broad range of aviation skills. He remains passionate about their ability to impact training. “Think about how you can use it as an interactive, creative, inspiring tool that will help you practice obscure tasks,” he says. He’s written two books on the subject—Scenario-based Training with X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator and Microsoft Flight Simulator as a Training Aid.
Williams is also an active instructor and frequent lecturer. His broad interests are evident here, too, as he switches from advanced work in technologically advanced aircraft to upset and aerobatic training in his Extra 300. “It’s nice to go up on a pretty day and make the world go round. I prefer sharing the experience with people, seeing their confidence grow over a three- or four-flight syllabus,” he says. His Beechcraft Bonanza has about the most modern panel possible in the aftermarket. “I’m interested in how pilots actually use these panels,” he says. “There is still a lot of confusion over what seems to be basic things. We haven’t done a very good job of training folks.”
So while the art of flying aerobatics appeals greatly to Williams, so too do the technical aspects of it. “In simple terms, aviation is this great puzzle,” he says. “For a lot of people the real appeal of flying is that once you get the basic skills, a well-flown flight is this puzzle of weather, flight plan, and figuring out a route. I enjoy that process.”
Who | Bruce Williams, flight instructor and author
Ratings | CFII
Extra | Follow Williams on his website
Photography by Rick Dahms