Simulators for aviation have been around a long time, certainly since I began using my home PC in 1989. I wanted my home PC to work flight sims since I was a new commercial pilot. I could see advantages to my aviation experience through the early flight sim software like Microsoft Flight Sim. Things have come a long way for sims from that time.
As an aspiring Private Pilot, how are these types of simulators an advantage?
Flight sim work in aviation training can be credited if the simulator is Accredited or Certified. These types of sims are attached to Flight Training Schools and serve to build skills necessary for the Private Pilot Licence and The Commercial Pilot Licence. Some flight time in these simulators is credited to the Instrument Flying portions of each licence. The alternative is doing this same work in the aircraft at twice the price. In some cases savings can be considerable. This sim time is allowed to be logged in your personal Logbook or Training record. However, nothing beats a real plane.
Can I get some skills and will they make me better?
Yes, you will become better and Simulators will build your skills. The whole point of the Simulator is to use it to practice knowledge given to you by your Flight Instructor. In fact it’s not the Sim that makes you better it’s what and how your Instructor uses it as a tool for your flying education that makes you better. A sim is just a fancy Game Boy… but with an experienced Pilot Instructor who knows how to use the sim to your advantage, is where the dynamics of learning aviation that makes you better really shines. What you practice and learn in the Sim is then used directly in the airplane the next time you fly. “I remember how we did VOR tracking in the sim, can we do it today in the plane”?
Does flying a sim really mean that you can really fly a real plane?
Yes and no, and some will debate me on this point of view. You need a real airplane to learn to fly in the real world, the sim won’t get you all the way there. The simulator will not give real world feedback that is needed for the total flight experience. One needs to fly a real plane initially to get the most out of Flight Simulators. I can’t learn to ride a unicycle by playing with the unicycle simulator, nor can I use the simulator to learn to do a real takeoff in the real world. But… I can practice in the simulator some knowledge and skills about how I will attempt to use a real airplane in a real environment in a real world takeoff. In the simulator you will try… But you need a real airplane to DO or DO NOT…
Can I save money with a Flight School Flight Sim?
You can save lots of money by using a sim, both at home and at the flight school. The simulator rents out at less than half the price of a real airplane, but the instructor fees are fixed at the instructor rate. The Cessna 172 is about $250 Canadian for an hour of flight training. The Simulator here rents out with an instructor at $100 CDN. Solo it’s $32.00 for practice that is not log able. So the required flying that you can do with your instructor in the simulator is significant. You will still have to do other required instrument training in the airplane.
Can I use the Simulator for Fun and still practice stuff that my instructor shows me in the airplane?
By all means, and if your instructor has developed good flying procedures in the airplane with you, you can practice them in the simulator to good effect that will enhance your overall ability to get ahead of the airplane in many flight situations. Some simulators that are good will be easy to do the normal things like traffic pattern work, slow flight, stalls and upper air exercises.
The Sim is Super at practising EMERGENCIES.
The most under used aspect of flight simulator practice is doing in flight emergencies and the Simulator is a device that shines at getting individuals to work through all the emergencies scenarios that one may or may not encounter in their aviation career. Everything can be practised and the big simulators use in the airline industry are used mostly for complex emergency procedure training. Your Flight Instructor should treat you to a few sessions in the simulator for doing fires, failures, and emergency landings. A good flight simulator will do all these kinds of things going wrong where one can practice what is reasonable to do.
The time you will use in the simulator is worth it, and it’s a good plan to talk to your friendly neighbourhood flight instructor on how you will use the simulator to your advantage. They will know how to treat you to some good training in aviation with the simulator, don’t discount the sim sitting there in a back office of the local flight school.