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4 Answers

Do flight simulators help when learning to fly?

Asked by: 15078 views Student Pilot

Are flight simulators of any help while learning to fly? I suspect that real live experience is the best, any input would be greatly appreciated

4 Answers

  1. Paul on Sep 06, 2010

    This is another question that if you asked 10 different instructors you would get 10 different answers.  Here is my answer:

    I used flight simulators (FS95/98) during my instrument training and it helped me immensely.  I found them to be a very valuable training aid.  I also used them when preparing for cross country trips during my commercial training.  My instructors would make comments like “How did you know that ATIS frequency?” or “Did you memorize the VOR freq?”.  As an instructor, I find that flight simulators are not as helpful during primary training (private).  Student Pilots who have used flight simulators heavily tend to need more encouragement to keep their eyeballs outside the cockpit where they should be during private pilot training. 

    There are a couple of good books on the subject

    Both are good books, although my personal recommendation if you had to choose is the second title by Van West.


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  2. Matthew Hammer on Sep 06, 2010

    Here’s my $.02 on simulators (assuming we’re talking about the desktop variety).

    They’re excellent for training procedures. That’s why they’re used so much for IFR training. But on the other hand, they aren’t so great for teaching how to actually fly. You don’t have the same visual references, you don’t experience any G-loads, and the control pressures are virtually never realistic.

    Before I even touched an airplane I spent hours at home on my desktop simulator (I’m a sim enthusiast). When I actually started flying I had some knowledge that most people of my experience level would not have. Mostly just my knowledge of how the controls work (steer on the ground with the pedals, not the “wheel”!) and how the instrumentation works (I could set the radios, knew the airspeed markings, etc).

    Where my simulator experience hurt me was in my stick and rudder flying skills. If you’re not training for IFR, odds are you should be focusing *outside* the airplane when you perform maneuvers — not inside. It took me a while to get over fixating on the instruments, and as a result my maneuvers suffered.

    This isn’t that difficult a problem for an instructor to identify and fix, though. In my case all it took was a few business cards over the aircraft instruments, forcing me to look outside. The results were almost immediate.

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  3. Graeme Nichol on Sep 27, 2010

    I agree Simulators are excellent for Instrument training.
    For primary training I prefer the least complex airplane available – no moving maps and lights and buttons to distract the student from looking out of the window! In fact I’d suggest you fly your first 15 hours in a simple J3 Cub.
    Students who arrive all knowledgeable of flight simulators want to spend way too much time looking at the instrument panel with out appreciating flight!
    Like with all of mans tools they have a place.
    Safe flight!

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  4. chris on Oct 23, 2012

    As an instructor, I agree with the previous responses, however practice with RC flying and also ww2 and ww1 combat simulators like Aces High will definitely help people actually learn some stick and rudder skills. I did both extensively for years and soloed in around 7 hours. Insane, but I was quite used to dynamically maneuvering aircraft and I even had the basis of spin avoidance and recovery in my skillset, not to mention the ability to consistantly take off and land lots of strangely modeled aircraft. Some of the landings (hundreds) involved landing planes with pieces shot off or failed engines.

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