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Flight Simulator vs. real flight
How realistic is FSX and other modern
Here we compare real flying to what you can
experience with a simulator.
Flight simulators are only training devices but you can get huge
benefits if you understand
their limits and advantages. Many people who "fly" in
simulators never actually have flown a real aircraft.
There are some important things to know.
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Fun things to do for practice
Flight sim setup
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A real aircraft moves in 3 dimensions, unlike in a car where you
only use 2 dimensions. A real aircraft will bounce
around, sometimes dramatically and suddenly, both up and down
and side to side because of wind turbulence. That
you can't get in a simulator, of course.
Flying skill depends on training your psycho-motor skills and
you have a limited range of motor skill use in a simulator.
Flying requires constant attention and good decision making
skills, so when you use a simulator for training try to "fly"
without distractions, pauses, or using external views.
Good sound systems add to the realism.
While your body can't move around in a simulator, there are
things you can do that will help grasp the full nature of
flying. First, set up the simulator for
highest realism settings, and real or customized weather.
Try setting the weather for higher winds. Your
simulated aircraft will move about on screen, and you will have
to respond quickly and carefully or you will crash.
I find it useful to pay attention to what is happening to my
body when I drive a car, for example. There are many
movements you do while driving that are similar to flying.
For example, you use your feet, hands, you reach for controls on
a panel, and you have to adjust for traffic, make observations,
deal with limited visibility, and adjust to various kinds of
sometimes have different cockpit layouts than their real
counterparts. Also, the gauges in sim planes may
look a bit different. In many cases, the
simulated aircraft, especially in complicated ones, do not
have all the working switches, or they may be in different
positions on the panel.
Simulators are excellent tools for learning how to use aircraft
instruments. You can use real charts, and dial
in navigation beacons on simulated guages that actually work.
Even the FAA allows for use of approved simulators to log time.
When you are using a simulator, learn about the various gauges
by reading textbooks, watching videos. Then
apply what you know to the simulated flights.
Navigation in a real airplane can
be done in a number of ways. Back in the old days,
pilots flew along roads or railway lines or other landmarks.
That was tough, but some pilots became really good at it.
Then came the NDB's ( non-directional beacons ), VOR's, and
ultimately GPS. Unless you fly often and all over
the place, your opportunity to learn navigation is limited to
where you fly. For most pilots, that means the local or
regional area, or the routes they are assigned if they do
In a simulator you can
"fly" all over the world and try all kinds of terrain.
Microsoft Flight Simulator has excellent terrain mapping plus
you can get amazing add-on scenery that in some cases is
photo-realistic with amazing detail. The mountains
and lakes and oceans are all in the right places, so you can
"fly" by "dead reckoning" or use a variety of instrument
navigation techniques including GPS.
If you "fly" in a
simulator, be sure to try everything, "dead reckoning, NDB, VOR,
and GPS. Be sure to try IFR flight too.
Planning a flight is something every
pilot needs to learn. If you are flying VFR it's
usually a good idea to have a plan, but for IFR it's required.
In a simulator you can file a plan using the built in software,
and you will have to communicate with ATC ( air traffic control
) to complete your flight successfully, especially in bad
weather or at night. This is very good practice for
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Download some new planes.
One place I like is
but there are many sites.
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
**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.
Five Star Flight school, Massachussets
Arrow Aviation, Danbury, CT