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Okay, How Many of You Have a Flight Simulator?

By Ian Brown, Editor - Bits and Pieces, EAA 657159

Three 22-inch monitors made to look like one
Three 22-inch monitors made to look like one.

The Full Kit
This is most of the system, excluding pedals.

Stéphane at the Controls
Stéphane at the Controls

Not that any of us really needs an excuse to buy more aviation-related goodies, but here is an idea that might actually save you some money flying.

I recently spoke with Stéphane Bélanger who is passionate about flying. He is just not in the demographic right now where he can afford to fly. As a golf pro, his summers are extremely busy and his winters are very quiet. He spends his winters in his basement flying. His favourite aircraft is a 737, and he seems to be very familiar with everything a pilot would have to know, from push-back to deplaning passengers on arrival.

Take a look at his setup. As you can see, he has three monitors presenting the "outside view." He needed a special Matrox controller to have these three to look like one long monitor.

He has another 22-inch monitor in the instrument panel with a wooden blank over it, making it look like he has multiple instruments. In fact he can just drag and drop instruments so they fit in the holes. Although we discussed X-Plane, he uses Microsoft FSX and finds that he can download lots of add-ons from the Internet.

In this picture you can see that Stéphane has added an autopilot, landing gear, engine-start controls, two comms, pedals and yoke, full throttles including reverse thrust, and flaps.

So when do you think you'd use a simulator instead of the real thing? I think it's without a doubt a genuine form of training, and airline pilots take it as the norm. A fellow student in my ground school aced his flight test with an unheard of 124/125. It turns out he'd been flying a Microsoft flight simulator since he was little, but rather than "playing at flying" he actually followed MS Flight Sim tutorials. In the end he earned his PPL for a lot less money than the rest of his classmates because he'd done it all before - on a flight sim. If you save just a few hours of training, you can buy yourself quite a nice flight simulator.

So here are just some ideas on ways to use a flight simulator instead of burning 100LL.

  • Anytime the weather is bad and you really want to go flying.
  • Rehearsing a flight that you haven't done before.
  • Keeping up your flying skills (See the Bill Evans spreadsheet in this issue for ideas).
  • Practicing that next skill before you go for the rating (VFR OTT, Night, Instrument, Multiengine).
  • Repetition, repetition, repetition. Nailing the numbers.
  • Improving communications skills while nobody is listening.
  • Integrating some new electronics into your flying - iPad, etc?
  • Flight planning; you can validate a flight plan by actually flying it.
  • Flying somewhere exciting that you don't think you'll ever get to - safari, Bermuda, wherever!

I could go on, but you get the idea. You just have to convince your significant other that this is valuable time spent training, and no matter how much you're enjoying yourself you are not just playing.

Let us know if you use a flight simulator and how you use it.

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