Amazing: WW2 pilots hit the skies once again

For a long time, virtual reality looked like this:

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 12.58.39 PM

That’s from the Nintendo Virtual Boy, released waaaaaay back in 1995. Pretty terrible, right?

But a lot can change in twenty years, and advancements in virtual reality have come a long way. Sure, this could lead to creepy things like the sex robots that Glenn brought up  a few months ago. But new technology can also have some really, really cool applications – like getting veteran pilots back in the cockpit of their old planes.

Over the past year, Reddit user jwsimmons has been visiting retirement homes and setting up flight simulators so that former pilots can once again take the skies. He’s modified the game War Thunder with simpler controls and non-combat scenarios, allowing the veterans to feel like they are back in their old Wildcats, Hellcats, Corsairs, and Mustangs.

He’s even taken advantage of the latest virtual reality technology, Oculus Rift, to create an incredibly realistic experience (see the video below):

“They were my heroes growing up, and so much is owed to what they sacrificed. It makes me really happy to be able to give a tiny bit back,” he said.

The photo below has gotten a lot of attention on Reddit today, drawing more people to jwsimmon’s story. He wrote, “This photo is from the last trip, but I just confirmed I could share it. Jack is a pilot from WW2 who flew Wildcats, Hellcats, Corsairs, Tigercats, F80s, F9s etc and a long list of helicopters too. Hell of a pilot on the PC as well.”

Source: jwsimmons,
Source: jwsimmons,”
  • Connor Kenway

    I want this. Glenn I thought you were anti gamer? Why are you even showing this?

    • Mike Nelson

      War Thunder is a purely simulation game, and gets no closer than the seat of the cockpit. There’s NO blood, NO viscerally stimulative graphics, and a good language filter, as well as a blacklist for people you don’t want to hear at all. The most violence you’ll ever see (at present) is a burning/exploding airplane or tank, and that only from a fair distance.

      I’ve stopped gaming recently – not sure if it’s forever or just for a while – but WT is the last game I played with frequency, and there are parts of it I rather miss. While playing, I saw in chat that other players identified themselves anywhere from age 13 up to over age 60, with a majority being in 20-something to 40-something age range, so there’s clearly a large appeal.

      You can play with nothing more than a mouse and keyboard, and it’s a shockingly easy game to learn. That said, it is graphics-intensive, but also plays well on “minimum” graphics settings.

      After 31 years as a computer gamer both online and offline, I give this game about 4.5/5 rating. And no, I have nothing to do with the development, marketing, or ownership of the franchise… just a lifelong interest in WW2, air combat, and military history.

  • Anonymous

    This is SO AWESOME!

  • Tredlite

    Glenn, War Thunder isn’t a very accurate simulation. Nice eye candy, but lousy flight physics. Aces High sets the standard for fidelity of flight. Dozens of WWII, Korea, Vietnam and later vets fly Aces High. This includes several currently serving fighter pilots. We love these vets (I’m one of them) and they are treated like the heroes and “royalty” they truly are…..

    • Alex Zuelke

      War thunder is still a much more realistic game than World of War Planes, and as great of a game as Aces High was, i feel it is beginning to show its age. With Oclus Rift availability and it has a bit of a easier learning curb i feel like War Thunder was the better choice for letting our greatest Vets fly there aircraft once more. just my thoughts as a long time player of both games.

      • Tredlite

        Aces High is about to get a quantum leap in graphics… Having been involved with online combat sims for nearly 20 years, IMHO, nothing approaches Aces High in terms of flight physics. War Thunder is purposely designed to be easy to fly. Let’s face it, the majority of online gamers would be challenged by a kite. Thus, they model according to that demographic. That’s fine. I prefer the far more difficult learning curve, and hence, more realistic flight model of Aces High. Most veteran pilots do as well.

  • Daniel Bruce

    I see that accurate simulations are taking a backseat to the eye-candy and instant gratification type games. Aces High provides a player with little eye-candy, but great challenges, because the flight physics are high, and are challenging, and require an individual to actually learn something about flight, and flying, versus learning how to use macros and cheat codes on a controller.

    • LtCondor

      I agree fully with Aces High having a superior flight model and a great community. Also it is the only flight simulator that I know of that will support up to 600 player in one arena. Many vets fly in this great sim. Chuck Yeager was on here at one time. Here is a link to show the superior flight model. It is taken while flying a P-47 jug.

  • Waystin2

    War Thunder is great if you like zero accuracy on actual plane flight characteristics. Not to mention that if you have deep pockets then you can outbuy and therefore outfly your opponents. A better bet is Aces High 2 with very accurate and historical flight and weapons modeling. Super great community of World War II enthusiasts. War Thunder…BAH.

  • bastarrdo

    If no combat, variety of aircraft, and all that is needed… why not just use MS Flight Sim?

  • reaganrides

    If you want great graphics and arcadish flight, War Thunder.

    If you want very realistic combat flight, modest graphics, Aces High.

    It is a tradeoff. War Thunder chose graphics and arcade over realism. Ace High if you want to know what it is really like to fly WW2 combat aircraft.

  • ROC

    If you think this is nice, try flying in an Aces High scenario. We just had about a hundred players participating in an attack on Pearl Harbor. Next Saturday we fight at Midway, after that, The Battle of Santa Cruz, then, The Attack on Japan. We have plenty of vets flying in these events, and plenty of young ones to learn from those vets and gain a new insight into history.

  • captain1ma

    War thunders has its merits, but if you want to support America, support Aces High. its Based in Texas, its more fun, more realistic, as far as a cartoon simulation goes, and it has its share of American and European hero’s playing. One of my cohorts is a ex-F106/F15 pilot! God Bless America!

  • Lucas Scher

    I play this game and thats pretty cool

  • Banshee7

    Out of all the games and simulations I’ve ever played, Aces High is no doubt the best. Even though the eye candy isn’t as great as other games, the game play is great. The flight model requires you to actually take the time to learn how to fly and be successful. You also have the ability to command tanks, PT Boats, and man all kinds of guns. The crew at HiTech Creations has been working hard to improve the eye candy over the years. After saying all that, the best part of Aces High is the community. That’s what makes it such a great experience that is well worth the money.

  • hobocat

    um okay lol the game war thunder was just modified so these veterans could feel as if they were back in their old planes, they werent playing to win a game, or anything of that sort, they were just flying. so with this being clearly stated in the article, why in the world is everyone giving their personal review of the game? personally i think its really cool that these guys can experience this again, i just wonder how they all react as they are flying.

    • Mike Nelson

      It’s because gamers are the penultimate “mine is bigger” community.

      Note the tenor of many posts here: “WT is a Russian game… Aces High is an American game that *I* play, and it’s better!”

      ‘Murica, **** yeah!!

      If you watched Rick’s video, you’ll note the “Why didn’t I get the kill?” and “Sweet revenge!” commentary near the end – both, in their context, reasonable… but both all about dominance, ego, and score-keeping.

      I would guess that the people who say WT isn’t realistic probably haven’t played in either simulator or realistic mode; arcade mode is… well, it’s like an arcade game, and the reason to play arcade is that the battles are fast, as opposed to realistic. For example, in arcade mode, your bombs and guns reload, in flight. Woo!!

  • Greg Sojka

    Glen you freaking twit how much did they pay you to advertise their product? Here’s a REAL game
    This is Aces High 2, a AMERICAN niche game with players from all over the world. TRY it yourself and be humbled by a game played by REAL veterans and history buffs alike… We’re not going to pay you to advertise, try believing in a game that isn’t out to for themselves… I am FBCrabby, and I should slap you with my claw.

  • Rick Frazier

    Aces High II is authentic. The program writers do extensive research on aircraft, tanks & ships to make the machines act in the game as close to their real combat behavior as possible. “WildWzl”

  • Rick Frazier
  • Larry Davey

    Of all the WW2 flight sims I’ve flown over the years, Aces High 2 is by far the most realistic. The rest are just…lame

  • dallan007

    Aces High is an American company and the best online pilots fly there. War Thunder pales by comparison.

  • jc

    Its fun to fly these games and its great these vets are back in the saddle.i have to concur with the other gentlemen that there are in deed different caliber combat games out there. When these vets get bored of the sub standard physics they should move to a quality combat sim…if they like that type of thing..quality…Try it and see…I did and never looked back.《S》Jimmy

  • Anonymous

    War Thunder is a fun sim, however the russian programmed software gives russian aircraft way too much advantage (cheats) over other aircraft

  • IT 2 IT

    BTW —how’s that ‘coverage’ of next week’s JUNE 25th
    Anniversary of the KOREAN WAR’s blitzkrieg kickoff —comin’?

  • PPforce

    I will duel anyone on War Plunder, the pilots on there suck even more than the game, the ex Aces Highs guys (traitors), I will even close my eyes on the merge to give you a chance in your own game its that bad lol

  • Adam Jenson
  • Snacko

    This is just the place where a Aces High vs War Thunder arcade game discussions should be. Try DCS or IL2 for simulations… Either way just have fun!

  • Jimmy Dearmore

    Aces High is far superior to War Thunder, if for no other reason than the number of players in the same arena.

  • Wayne Messina

    This is crazy guys…. Salute Vets …. enjoy your time back in the seat without trepidation….
    Although I have my views on things here also, all I can do is dip and shake my head at the direction this has gone… Internet people stop hating each other….8)
    Once again…Salute Vets, the real players

  • BurninVernon

    Let’s get some Rise of Flight and IL-2 Sturmovik love going here!

  • Hutch King – HK

    While our limited intellect quickly comprehends utility, the complexities of judging someone’s merit make it impossible to be judged correctly.

  • Dominic Calzada

    Having tried both games, Aces High is far superior in the way the planes’ flight characteristics are modeled. War Thunder feels like an arcade game. Aces High – from personal experience in piloting aircraft – feels like the real deal. Apply that modeling to aircraft from WW1 biplanes to Me-262’s, and you get a great gaming experience.

  • Mark Magill

    Aces High is the best air to air combat game.. flight models are more accurate…

  • Billy Lane

    Think it’s outstanding that this man is giving his time like this, giving the vets the opportunity to fly the old warbirds. Doesn’t matter which sim it is, it’s still amazing to them and that’s what matters.

    As an AH player, I apologize for my fellow members who come in here, can’t read and feel it necessary to post how great of a combat game AH is and not give the guy doing this for vets a friendly thumbs up. Not all of the community is like that :)

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