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Flight Simulator

Asked by: 2694 views Flight Instructor

how good is a simulator for pilot training? Any research results would be really appreciated.

4 Answers



  1. Sam Dawson on Mar 11, 2013

    My background with simulators.
    I was introduced to them in the military. Used a non-visual full motion simulator for instrument training. For transition training used a full motion visual simulator. Also was exposed to a non-motion visual simulator that used a camera board- a video camera that would move along a terrain board. Finally used “simnet”, simulators that were linked to other aircraft simulators and ground simulators (such as tanks).
    Civilian side I was exposed to full motion level C and D simulators in the airlines.
    GA side the Elite PI-135 PCATD as well as the Redbird FMX.
    When used properly simulators can be very effective for teaching. The aircraft cockpit is a poor classroom. Simulators can give you an environment that is more comfortable, less threatening and cost effective for learning. in addition as an instructor I can have you do things in the simulator that I would never do in the airplane. For example, I would never fail an engine on a multiengine airplane after 1/2 Vmc until the airplane is above 500′.
    For instrument students I can have you conduct almost any instrument approach in the US. If you mess it up we can hit the pause button, discuss what you did wrong, and set it up again.
    The cost effectiveness really kicks in if doing multiengine training. Even a Redbird FMX renting for a whopping $70 is much cheaper than a light twin- normally running about $250 or more.
    I have not used full motion simulators for private pilots yet- so I am not sure how effective they are. I will let someone else chime in.

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  2. Wes Beard on Mar 11, 2013

    The FAA has classified simulators, FTDs and AATD / BATDs under different levels depending on the realism of the device.

    Simulators are full-motion. 4-axis is level A or B and 6-axis or motion can be a level C or D. Level C or D simulators are good enough that the FAA has allowed pilots to fulfill all the pilot training necessary for a type rating in that simuiator. No airplane time is needed. A pilot could, after getting their type rating, walk out to the airplane, with a copilot who has never flown the airplane before either and knows only the basic airplane systems and take off. Insurace requirements are a completely different matter.

    Flight trianing devices are classified between level 1 and 7 depending on their realism. Unlike simulators, they have no motion, or very little.

    AATD / BATD are approved for specific maneuvers by the FAA. They are typically used only in a training environment and not a checking environment.

    The FAA has a table in the back of the instrument, commercial and ATP PTS that will list which tasks are approved for the type of simulator being used.

    Apparently, the FAA believes they are quite a good trainer.

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  3. Jim F. on Mar 12, 2013

    For the airlines, you won’t fly a real aircraft in training, just sims. Seems like it works for them.

    For primary training, consider Colton Harris-Moore, better known as the “Barefoot Bandit.” He used Microsoft Flight Simulator on a home PC and learned how to fly well enough. (Sure, the landings weren’t quite as successful, but who needs them anyway?)

    One of my buddies wanted a quick overview before we went on a recreation flight, so I gave him a couple hour tutorial on my home flight sim. (Nothing super advanced, but MFSX with all the hardware and multiple monitors running on a fast gaming computer), When we actually flew, he executed a very near perfect takeoff, smooth controls, and a very acceptable landing (not to PTS, but still good.) Sure, he lacked on the intricacies of navigation, communication, airspace, ect, but he could fly.

    Simulators absolutely have their place in training, at all levels from hour 1 to hour 20,000 of ATP. Some lack more than others, but when used correctly they can all be a wonderful teaching tool. Not saying you can’t learn to fly without one, but the usage of a sim can really help decrease actual flight time (thus money) needed to learn a topic.

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  4. Cory on Apr 01, 2013

    I use a simple desktop sim as part of the transition to a G430/530 or a G-1000. They work pretty well to help navigating between screens on the various devices.

    I think anything from MSFT Flight Sim with a Yoke, up to a full PCATD etc… is good for helping keep proficient (not necessarily current) on instrument procedures.

    Unless you are using a sophisticated PCATD they are not very helpful for primary training or VFR work. I’ve actually seen people get into trouble thinking they can substitute MSFT Sim, for practice flying a real plane and that is typically a very bad option.

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