flight simulators are fantastic.
are used extensively for pilot
training, especially for complex and very expensive aircraft.
While obviously they cannot substitute for real flying time,
they do provide excellent learning opportunities for a very low
cost and total safety.
Today's common, inexpensive simulator programs are far and away
better than even professional, FAA approved simulators of only a
dozen years ago. You can get sophisticated control
mechanisms like yokes and pedals, throttle quadrants, dual
screens, and so on.
Plus, you can do a
host of other things,
real time weather data and fly in it.
fly to thousands of different airports,
"fly" hundreds of different aircraft types,
"fly" virtually in multiplayer real time "games",
sometimes with real certified traffic
hosting a virtual airport and talking
online with other
Use real charts and "navigate" them with real instruments
and aviation navigation beacons
Share your aircraft with other pilots in an online session.
....take turns "flying" the same plane.
Add additional, more detailed scenery for specific areas.
See moving cars, trucks, boats, and other aircraft around
as you as you fly.
Getting the most from Flight Simulator
To get the most training from a computer
program, you need to know how to use it for maximum
effectiveness. If you follow all the suggestions
below, you will be truly amazed how effective and realistic a
home flight simulator can be.
If you are not a pilot,
or never intend to be, you can still learn a lot about what it
takes, in terms of focus, clear thinking, and planning, to
manage a flight and land without crashing. You will
get a good sense of what it really takes to learn to control an
aircraft if you follow these tips.
Take an inexpensive real first lesson
at a local flight school.
Most schools will give an introductory lesson for an hour or so.
You'll be able to take the controls under supervision and feel
the exhilaration of flight. It may inspire you to go
Study books and videos about
You'll immediately gain respect for what it takes to fly a real
airplane. You need not be overwhelmed, however,
because these days you can get excellent audio and visual
training. I started my training with a lot of
books and videos I bought on eBay, to broaden what I learned in
you are a student pilot,
as I am, you will get tremendous help by carefully, and
methodically, using a flight simulator. Set the realism to
as high as your computer can manage, and perform your flights
with the same care and discipline you would use in a real plane.
Go from engine startup, taxi, cruise and navigation, descent,
approach, and landing to full stop. Obey airport
signs and markings, etc.
click on photos below for larger views
Aircraft have many gauges
and pilots must know how
every single one works,
and when to check them.
Get a good setup,
If you try to be successful controlling a plane with a keyboard,
you'll soon be disappointed. At the very minimum,
get a GOOD joystick, with a bunch of buttons and good
instructions. Most planes do not have
joysticks, however, so you really should get a yoke, and get a
good one with many controls. CH products and Saitek
make very good ones. And, get the pedals too, while
you're at it. Pedals are a must for certain types of
maneuvers in real aircraft.
Get a good video controller for your computer, the
faster the better. Flight simulation needs a lot of
computer power and memory. It doesn't have to cost a lot,
either. I use an iMac 24 inch intel Duo core
running Windows Vista 32 bit ultimate, and it works great. I use 2 screens,
the fine 24 inch iMac screen and a 19 inch NEC flat screen dual
input digital monitor.
On the iMac 24 you need to get the newer ones with the Nvidia
8800 card in it, 3.06 ghz. You can make your own setup even
better if you can afford it. Now, for REAL flight
simming, get the new Red
Bird full motion 180 degree visibility FAA certified system that
runs FSX. I tried it, incredible ! Only
60,000 and you can have one in your home or business.
Pick a simple aircraft to start with,
one that is slow and easy to manage. In Flight
Simulator X, FSX, there are a couple dozen, planes, and a few of
them are very basic. Once you get a little practice,
you can go to various places online ( see links below ), and
download hundreds of different kinds of aircraft, many for free,
or as shareware. I've currently "flown" around
100 different planes to over 400 different airports in a dozen
countries. I've flown ultralights to heavy regional
jets, up to a 747 and the F-14 military jet. I
like flying vintage aircraft, fast props, and small jets.
Read some of the instructions with your
The discipline it takes will be rewarded. You'll
enjoy it much more.
Log some of your flights.
You'll experience what real pilots have to do and it will track
your progress. The discipline is a good mental
exercise and it will teach you how to plan your flights
effectively. I have a log book ( different
format that standard log ). It's more like a running
kneepad for flights I've done. I also have a book of
various aircraft specifications, a folder full of sectional maps
and smaller printouts, an Airport Facility Directory, and a
bunch of books on various aircraft and their performance.
I also have a small collection of small model aircraft.
Learn as much as you can about the
aircraft you are "flying".
There are many places
online where you can find out flight characteristics, limits,
history, operating costs, prices, and much more of just about
any aircraft. Start with a Google search.
Download some new planes.
One place I like is
but there are many sites. Some ask for a small
donation to keep things going, but they are great resources for
new scenery, tips, planes, and you can also meet other like
Practice flying in a
variety of locations, conditions, weather, and aircraft.
Try a large airport once in awhile to keep
you on your toes, or a mountain valley run. Try
landing a plane on a beach, or on skis, or using a float plane.
Learn from your mistakes.
Practice makes perfect.