Some flight sims are useful for when learning to fly – and for staying in practice.
Flight Training sofware
by Andrew Herd
IT TOOK ME so long to learn to land a Cessna 172 that my instructor was able to put down a deposit on a new house… okay, I exaggerate, it was a new car. Anyway, as I was flogging around the circuit for the umpteenth time wondering why it was that I couldn’t land such an apparently simple aeroplane, it occurred to me that 95 per cent of my flying time was money straight down the drain. I didn’t have any problems with the circuit, or even the approach, it was the flare and touchdown where all it all went pear-shaped. What I really needed was some magical way of dispensing with the first three legs, setting the plane up on short final and flying those last few seconds over and over again until I got it right.
If you are expecting me to say that I sat down and used a simulator to crack the problem, you are wrong; the finer points of landing are one of the places where a simulator can’t help that much, but my impression is that student pilots use computer aids a great deal less than they might. If you already have a suitable PC, buying a copy of Microsoft Flight Simulator and a CH Products yoke and pedals to go with it, will cost you under £300 and then you can practise to your heart’s content.
But there are limits. Before you read what follows, bear my ham-fisted attempts with that 172 in mind. Above all, flying is about feel and the one thing that no PC-based simulator can do is provide you with the tactile feedback and control forces that a real aircraft generates; that aside, a modern sim can do almost everything you want.
Looking at the present flying training syllabus, a simulator can be used to: show the basic effects of controls; illustrate how flight instruments work; practise circuits, including crosswind approaches; and practise procedures like engine failure after take off and forced landings. IMC students can also take advantage of the ability to practise flying with partial panels and to set up all the common instrument approaches. IFR in PC-based simulators feels remarkably like the real thing.