Training Areas simulators can help with:

  • Learn basic aviation concepts and theory like navigation.
  • Instrumentation is very close to the original.
  • Pilots learn to be “light on the controls,” an approach that avoids hard, sudden movements that could be disastrous in a real plane.
  • Inexpensive. PC simulators afford pilots an opportunity to get familiar with fight basics without spending a lot of money. Real flight lesson fees can add up.
  • Procedures – Reviewing steps and procedures before going in the air. For example, for a student, steep turns or stall recovery can be a little nerve wracking at first. It may be much easier (and cheaper) to do it in a sim with an instructor, discussing all the steps and reasons for actions. Then when the student gets in the air, they won’t have the “feel” for it, but at least the general process is already familiar.
  • Navigation – Tuning and identifying VORs, and interpreting the needles can be done just as well be done on the ground as in the air. It can also be used for some visual reference lessons.
  • Instrument interpretation – Scanning and cross-checking the 6-pack of instruments can be done in a simulator just fine, and a student can practice doing it for long periods of time for a fraction of the cost of flight-time.

Beyond the growth in technical skills, flight simulators really shine by helping pilots with their mental game. The physical demands on pilots are not that tough. However, keeping sharp mentally is a constant challenge. Flight sims help newbies and veterans alike stay up-to-date on controls and instruments.

Training Areas simulators do not help with:

There are a number of negative aspects to consider when determining if flight simulators can prepare a pilot for real world flying:

  • No physical feedback. Real flying is done by feel as much as with sight and instrumentation. Tires on the runway, turbulence, air rushing over the wings; all provide vital information to the pilot. In addition, real planes have significant noise, so much noise that communication is generally done over headset.
  • Pre-flight checks. While flight simulation enthusiasts can just jump in a plane and take off, real planes require several pre-flight checks. Preparing the engine, magnetos, gauges and other checks are critical to a safe flight.
  • Poor for high stress flying like deep dives or acrobatics. Spins and other maneuvers are unrealistic.
  • Visuals, while good, are still well short of real-world imagery. This can be problematic for pilots who are used to VFR.
  • Home pilots who don’t use a yoke will be at a disadvantage when getting in a real plane. A yoke and pedals is really a necessity if flight simulation is being used to prepare for real flight training.
  • Certain aircraft, like helicopters, fly much differently on a computer than in real life.
  • Flight hours with a sim cannot be logged to help complete the basic requirements for a pilot’s license. There are certified simulators that can be used for this purpose. However, getting to actually use them is complicated and expensive.
  • Some pilots believe flight simulators develop bad habits that might be hard to unwind once behind the yoke of a real plane.
  • Radios – I haven’t seen any flight sims that really work for the practice of talking on or listening to the radios. I don’t think there’s any good substitute for actually flying in a real airspace while simultaneously engaging in real radio conversations.

The Verdict

Although a very useful tool it really comes down to individuals themselves, their hand eye co ordination and personal ability. On my first flying lesson I was aloud to land after demonstrating to my instructor my ability during the course of the lesson in general handling maneuvers. Although very daunting it didn’t feel unfamiliar. I spent years as a teenager playing MS Flight Simulator, it didn’t prepare me for radios, checklists etc but as the title of the article say, Can it help you fly a plane… My view… Yes.


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