The logo for this site from way back when. Back in the WordPress days and when a different website name and domain were present. The visual above was a flight simulation I flew from Detroit to Shanghai-Pudong (DTW-PVG). I loved my days on this program and still do whenever I get the chance to sit down and do a short or medium range simulation for fun. There is one thing though, that this program could never re-produce, no matter how realistic the payware is, and no matter how sweet your set-up is in your own den or living room on that huge flat screen painted on your wall. That re-production is:
THE FEEL OF THE AIRPLANE
This "feel" is achieved through the following four basic flight maneuvers:
- Straight & Level Flight
It's one thing to make a turn or program the automation on the simulator to turn the plane for you, however, another to feel the effect of a pilot's sense of feel and ability to use the controls correctly when making inputs in a real aircraft. It's one thing to do a mechanical maneuver with an aircraft in real life for its own sake; but to feel the effects of it is what is just as important, especially operating at low airspeed. One example of this is slow flight - low airspeed, high angle of attack, high power and constant altitude.
In the same simulation as the photo above, I was nearing final descent into Shanghai and there were five aircraft ahead to land and only one runway in use. After flying for 13 hours, a go around wasn't on my list of wishes. Yes, slow flight was the answer in a 777 on the simulator to maintain assigned speed and requested priority approach.
When I performed slow flight in a 172 for the first time - it was a totally different story.
So... exactly, why again, am I comparing simulator to real life flight?
Because I realized that once I started flying real planes, it wasn't as easy for me to adapt to the feel of the plane less alone using certain controls (simultaneously) having used the simulator before for so many years - since 1999 to be exact. For me it was an inexplicable difference. Every (student) pilot is different and has different levels and needs. However, had I not used flight simulator before reality came, it would have been a totally different story. I would venture to say it would have been much easier to get this feel.
PC Flight Simulators are a great way to get a young dream of flying to take off, however, I would personally venture to say that as soon as one is able to take an intro flight and a couple follow up lessons - do it. PC flight simulators will never feel the same way to you again.
Jeremy D. Carlisle