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Flying a simulated aircraft is exciting, and has never been more interesting or
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 Today's flight simulators are fantastic.

     Flight simulators 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,

download 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 controllers
       hosting a virtual airport and talking online with other
       pilots.
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 further.

        Study books and videos about pilot training.    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 the flights.   

 If 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 switches, and pilots must know how every single one works,
 and when to check them.

 Suggestions:  

      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.  

   Other equipment:    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 simulator.    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 www.simviation.com   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 minded people.

          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.


Fantastic full motion simulator
You have to try this, it's amazing, and small, too.  
Fits in a room.

 

This is the world's
most comfortable pen.  
Perfect for pilots.
If you have to write down
a lot of info, get one.

It's like wearing a pen.
Small, unusual shape
makes it noticeable.

Looks like a jet !
 From Pen Again
avail. in colors, cheaper ones too.


It all starts with a plan

Get yourself a good setup

Dual screen is a bonus



Ready for night takeoff


   Things to get for your setup:

** A flight school textbook, and videos, to help you learn about flying.
**  Yoke control -- much better than a mouse, and new ones have many buttons and switches
**  Pedals --  like real planes, to control yaw
**Real flight charts --  sometimes you can find pilots selling older ones for cheap on eBay.
**Pilot rulers and protractors, for calculating distance, heading, and course on your charts
**Map of the world, or country, to plot and record your "flights"
**A large monitor screen for realistic view.   A second screen is a wonderful addition, too.
**Pens and paper, for taking notes about nav and com frequencies and weather data.
**Aircraft operational specifications, speed, cruise, weight, ceiling, stall speeds, etc.  
         Google the plane you're "flying", and you'll find loads of information about your aircraft that will help you fly it  more effectively.
 

       

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