Back in May of 2000, Eric Thornton decided to launch a new virtual airline based on Aerolineas Argentinas. Having lived in Argentina for 10 years, he believed that Aerolineas Argentinas deserved a top-notch virtual airline. Upon further research and to his astonishment he found that no virtual airline representing one of the very best airlines in the world existed – Cathay Pacific Airways! With the experience obtained through Aerolineas Argentinas Virtual he launched Cathay Pacific Virtual. A few months later, he realized the same thing about Emirates and launched another virtual airline representing a great new airline.
After almost a year in operation with 250 active members (including real world retired airline captains, the most famous one being the beloved Captain Dave), Eric received a cease and desist order from a law firm representing Cathay Pacific for trademark infringement and domain name dispute. This dispute was resolved amicably but Eric was so disillusioned he decided to shut down all three VAs, much to the chagrin of all members.
Shortly after, another group opened a new version of Cathay Pacific Virtual sometime in 2001. The new Cathay Pacific Virtual had sponsorship/permission from the airline. Unfortunately, after a few months, Cathay Pacific pulled the plug and the second Cathay Pacific Virtual ceased to exist. Members lost hope after two virtual airlines representing their favorite airlines closed.
A year later, Eric was not satisfied with the state of affairs between real world airlines and virtual airlines. He decided to consult with several lawyers to find out how he could build a website without permission and without breaking trademark law. Soon after Cathay Pacific Virtual #3 was born on February 2 of 2002! Many of the original members came back but many were still so annoyed with Cathay Pacific that they never returned. Over the years, several real world Cathay Pacific pilots have joined and CPAV was featured in their own internal pilot magazine.
During the next several months, many other Asian carriers joined the Cathay Pacific Virtual family. First to join the FTG was Singapore VA and “Asia’s Flying Tigers Group” was born! Then more virtual airlines joined the group per member requests and management research including JAL, Thai & Malaysia Airlines. We were astonished that the flightsim community had no virtual counterparts representing these great airlines.
Since previous attempts had failed for European virtual airlines because of legal issues, we added some as well, including Air France, Lufthansa, Swiss and Virgin. Hence, the name “Flying Tigers Group” since we were no longer focused only in Asia. To this day, many of our virtual airlines are the only ones representing these great airlines.
July 2004 was another interesting month. Cathay Pacific Virtual received yet another Cease & Desist letter. This time we had enough of this nonsense and we hired our own law firm to counter their ridiculous allegations. This is the first time we know that a virtual airline has hired a law firm to defend their rights against a real world airline. We successfully countered their ridiculous allegations and Cathay Pacific Virtual is here to stay. In 2005, Lufthansa also had a trademark hissy fit. Albert Martin then the CEO of Lufthansa Virtual talked to Lufthansa and it was settled.
Soon thereafter, our President – Iikka Meriläinen – had to resign due to military and educational commitments. Iikka built a lot of cool features and management tools with his very big brain. After having served in the Finnish army during 2005, Iikka finally came out of temporary retirement and resumed his work as President in May of 2006. Later that summer we all chipped in to buy Iikka a new computer & beta test Flight Simulator X. Then Iikka went to university so he could consume copious amounts of refreshing alcoholic beverages. In his absence, Christian Chaix continued to develop and improve our code and management portal – FTGoo, while the brilliant Markus Joppich developed our very own FTG ACARS program from scratch. Martino Sulmoni redesigned several FTG websites, and went nuts for classic stuff and tri-holers.
December 2008 FTG surpassed 1 million total flight hours!
Tragedy struck May of 2010 when a hacker deleted two of the most important parts of the database. They corrupted the entire members database and all flights on record. After many years with our web host we found out our database had never been backed up. Even after asking them if it was being backed up and confirmed by them. Unfortunately their TOS prevented us from seeking any legal claims for damage. Obviously the entire community was devastated but in short order stepped up and made a record amount of donations to get FTG back up and running.
A few months earlier Eric Thornton, the founder of FTG, had moved to a new country. Because of this he was too busy dealing with real life and was not able to dedicate any time to rebuilding, even much less when completely offline for a good 6 months. After considerable time, in the summer of 2011, work commenced on rebuilding FTG with Markus Joppich and Christian Chaix. The rebuilt FTG was re-opened September of 2011.
Once back up and running with most of the bugs worked out it was decided that the FTG needed a facelift to bring all the website up to date. We knew what we wanted and 2 of our own pilots stepped in to build the new websites. Roman Illin from the Ukraine built the design, look and feel of the websites while Berilo Jr. from Brazil built the code that brought everything together. Roman and Berilo were able to create and integrate 20+ sites into one design, while representing 20+ different airlines. Pretty cool what they were able to accomplish.
2013 we implemented many new historic routes/schedules and cargo.
2014 was the last year we had access to flight schedule data open to the public. At the end of the year Flightstats decided to close off any use of their schedule API for free.
2015 after an amazing contribution from our members we hired a programmer to setup our schedule search to work with the pay per use Flightstats schedule API. We had to pay for every single schedule search, the price was reasonable so it was doable.
2016 Without notice Flightstats changed to a contract business model to use the schedule API. We tried negotiating with them but the price was absurd so it was no longer an option. After having access to live flight schedules for 10 years this is no longer the case and we have not found any working alternatives. Schedule APIs are all behind pay walls. Unfortunately this rules out our briefing and prefiles for FTG ACARS.