Most new students view a flight simulator, as a game, or a toy, not really something that they want to get involved with. “I want to fly an airplane, not a simulator!!” is usually the comment that I hear. I guess that I can agree with that way of thinking, but I’d like to give you my perspective as a pilot and flight instructor on simulators.
First, as a pilot I can understand the apprehensiveness of not ‘wasting time’ in a simulator. However, after reading an article in an aviation trade magazine while getting my Private Pilots License, I decided to give Microsoft Flight Simulator a try. I purchased the software, a yoke and rudder pedals, and set up shop in the corner of the dining room. One of the things that the instructor wanted me to do was to “arm chair fly”. Sitting in a chair, and visualize flying the plane. While it did help, trying to do a maneuver while flying the simulator was way more challenging. At first, I used it to practice traffic patterns, doing radio calls (8085A left downwind runway 24 Wyoming Valley), and practicing memory items like GUMP checks, and landings. To my surprise, when I got into the real airplane, and my instructor noticed the difference… Now, I’m not repeating lessons (saving money), and have a better understanding of how things are working. I then upgraded to Elite instrument software for my instrument rating. I figured that I paid for my simulator investment by not spending extra money repeating lessons, or more time in the air trying to understand something.
Second, as a Flight instructor, I think that it is the greatest tool invented. As flight instructors we learn that the cockpit isn’t the best classroom to learn in. it’s noisy, hot or cold, and have plenty of distractions. We have access to a Redbird FMX full motion simulator. The irony is that it uses Microsoft Flight simulator for the scenery outside the window. Being in a full motion Sim activates your other senses as it would in a real airplane. If we were to practice crosswind landings, and there was no wind for the real airplane, we could use the simulator and dial in as much wind as necessary. I can pause the simulator, and show you where to look, what to do, and correct any mistakes that were being made. So what about the Home version of Microsoft Simulator? I still tell all of my students to make the investment (usually the cost of 1 lesson for the set up), and to practice at home in their spare time. Those that have taken my advice have thanked me. They realize it saved them money in the long run, and helped them perfect their passion….and it helps me get you to your rating quicker!!