Anespides.net

Flight Simulation - Home Airport YMHB

Read about the new B-737 Flight Deck Simulation Project (seperate BLOG)

(last updated 15 August 2011)

 

       

In the later part of the evening and occasionally into the wee hours of the morning, a hearty group of individuals - most of them seemingly rational, grown men and women with professional daytime jobs - sit perched in front of computer monitors with sweaty palms tightly clenching flight yokes.  Distant cries of "Honey, come to bed" have long since fallen on deaf ears as, with razor-sharp concentration, these virtual airmen skillfully guide their chosen aircraft down glide paths to airports across the world.  The late night silence is shattered by  screeches of virtual rubber on the runway immediately followed by the deafening whine of reverse engine thrusters and finally a sign of relief from the flight deck also known as a desk!

 

My Involvement

Why Flight Sim?

My Flight Sim

Add On's

Technical Information - Where & How

Flight Deck Construction

My Flight Deck

Development of Boeing 737 Flight Deck (B-737 Project)

PFC Hardware Evaluation

Practical Advice for the Virtual Flyer

Airports & Approaches

The Last Word

Training & Tutorial Downloads

 

My Involvement

I became involved in flight simulation with the release of FS 1 by Micro$oft back in 1991 thereabouts. I cannot remember the version number, I think it was version 1 or 2. The program was very basic in those days.  The aircraft looked like a line sketch from autocad, the sky was blue or grey, the sea was blue and the ground green or brown.  Runways were grey rectangles with a few non blinking lights at the end.  Buildings were rectangles and squares of differing colours.  The flight dynamics were OK and I spent many hours "flying within the square that the program provided". Little did I know that the release of FS 1 was the beginning of an ever increasing and more technical hobby!

I did not purchase FS98 as I was involved in other endeavours, however purchased FS2000 PE just after its release date.  This was followed with FS2002 PE and FS2004 Century of Flight (cf. FS9) which is the current sim I use.  I have not updated to FSX, however, will no doubt update in due course. I have not used any other flight sims other than those produced by Micro$oft.  Nor am I involved with other computer-based game packages.

Why Flight Sim?

I suppose I could easily have been drafted into some other type of computer game, however, computers have never really interested me and playing games for hours on end with little educational input didn't really tickle my fancy.  I thought and still do believe, that "most" computer games are a waste of one's time and intellect.  

Notwithstanding this, I enjoy virtual flying using flight simulator.  Some folks enjoy the technical aspects associated with the simulator and spend considerable time creating new files (airports, aircraft, improvements, etc) for others to use, while others just like to fly around as easily as possible (arcade-like).  I like to use the sim to recreate, within the simulator constraints, an authentic flight experience which takes into account: flight planning; navigation; weather; fuel loads; weights; ATC and weather changes.  I also enjoy improving my knowledge on the theoretical aspects of flight and in-flight navigation and flight procedures.  I'm quite happy spending hours perfecting the technique for a cross wind approach or a IFR landing at night, rather than just "fly about" (which is pretty boring & time wasting).  Actually when I fly the sim, I seem to spend most of the time I have allocated browsing through manuals, interpreting instrument charts or researching some particular point in relation to the task.  It goes untold that for anyone to be interested in flight sim requires an inherent interest in aircraft and aviation in general.

My Flight Sim

The programme I use is Flight Simulator 2004 (aka FS9)  created by micro$oft.  My computer is a Pentium 4/3.0 m/h computer with a Asus NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT6800 video card and 2 GIG of RAM.  I use two 19 inch LCD monitors (dual setup). 

I have not updated to FSX to date and probably will not do so for sometime to come.  The main reason being that teething problems are always present when a new programme is released and the aircraft I use are not at the moment compatible with FSX. This will no doubt change after the release of the PMDG 737 "Dreamliner" (see later).

Although this computer is a tad slow by 2010 standards, it still does produce good results with average frame rates in the order of 22-28 frames per minute. To preserve visual acuity and fluidity in frames, I have preset the frame rates to 20 frames per second.  Most of the environmental and technical sliders are maxed out or set at 97%.  No doubt, when I do decide to upgrade to FSX, a new computer will be required.

If you enjoy flight simming and are looking for a new computer, ensure you opt for the best quality and fastest possible, as a fast processor with plenty of RAM (minimum 1 GIG) will enhance your enjoyment considerably. Furthermore, any of the later versions of flight simulator are very graphic intensive, therefore, select a high quality video card.  

Flight Controls

The flight controls I use are a Cirrus 2 pro console jetliner yoke, throttles and pedals produced by Precision Flight Controls (PFC) located in California.  I also use GoFlight modules to simulate the switches and rotary knobs for  instrument control.  My main instruments are the 737 series MCP and EFIS produced by CP Flight in Italy.  See My Flight Deck further below for a concise list of components.

I formally used a yoke and pedals manufactured by CH Products, however, found their behaviour erratic and unrealistic; I became tired of the endless calibration issues – although their price provides very good value for money.

Add On's (Aircraft, Scenery, Airports, Effects - The List is Endless)

The accessibility of the Internet in Australia has provided all flight sim users with a mine of technical information, tips and short cuts, add on's and anything else you may need to discover.  I use an assortment of add on's but do not download just anything from the net.  I always research the add on first to ensure it is exactly what I am looking for.  I think you can really get bogged down in computer glitches and computer work if you add too many add onus as many are not compatible with each other.  Therefore, work out what you want and try to keep it as simple as possible (KISS principle - keep it simple stupid!)

Below is a concise list of add onus I currently use with FS9 (as at August 2010) 

Aircraft

Navigation, Communication & AI

Functionality

 

I also use an assortment of smaller add on's which cover textures, graphics, flight dynamic upgrades, airports and the like - too many to mention.  

Approach charts are easily available from the Internet, however, if you want a nice collection without the hassle of searching, Sim Plates 2004 provides a very good selection of essential charts.  I recommend finding and printing decent charts as they greatly increase the realism of virtual flying - especially jet liners.  Better still, scout around and see if you can buy the original instrument approach plates used by real world pilots.  On a recent trip to the US I discovered a complete set of US plates at a flee market which cost me $10.00!  Failing this, there are lots of plates available on the Internet for free.

Aircraft Types - So many to Choose From....

There are so many aircraft types available that you can fall into the trap of just collecting aircraft and never using them!!  The same goes for scenery and airport files!  My suggestion - find a few aircraft you like, learn their traits and characteristics and stay with them.  Why download hundreds of files when you only use a half a dozen airports?  Keep it simple and save the hassles with software incompatibility.

Initially, I used the default FS9 aircraft (for a few years) and then purchased a commercial aircraft, namely the 737 designed by Dreamfleet.  This aircraft was replaced in April, 2004 with the PMDG (Precision Manuals Development Group) Boeing 737ng 600-700 and 800-900 series jet aircraft.  For a GA aircraft I favoured the PMDG B-1900 Beechcraft.  These aircraft are absolutely amazing - the designers have neglected nothing and these models are the MOST realistic flight simulation aircraft currently available for flight simulator.  In January 2007, I purchased an additional GA aircraft; the Aeroworx B-200 King Air.  The B-200 surpasses the PMDG B-1900 and is rapidly becoming my most often selected GA aircraft; I rarely use the PMDG B-1900 today.

The liveries for the PMDG & Aeroworx aircraft are exceptionally detailed and varied, flight dynamics excellent, and the flight management computer and panels unbeatable.  To purchase these aircraft, google search Precision Manuals Development Group and Aeroworx.  Furthermore,  the support offered by the designers of these two companies ,via a technical forum is one of the best I have used with queries being answered, for the most part, very promptly. 

Since purchasing the above aircraft models, I rarely fly anything  with the exception  the Cessna 172 for initial training in IFR manoeuvres.    If you are serious about flight sim, navigate to the PMDG and Aeroworx web pages and shell out the dollars; you will not be disappointed with your purchase. 

Technical Information - Where Do I Get It?    How is This Done,  or That?

I also have a number of flight training texts which I STRONGLY advise anyone serious in the use of flight simulator purchase.  The texts are well written and concise and have been authored by Bill Stack who is a well known flight sim guru!  Much of the information presented in the texts is available (for free) on the web, but you must spent the time searching, cataloguing, referencing and printing the information for it is useful and accessible.  Stack's books have all the necessary information in a few handy volumes and refer to computer flying ONLY.  Some of his titles are: Instrument Flying for Flight-Sim Pilots, Flight-Sim Navigation, Flight-Sim Manoeuvres and Jet Simming - How to fly business jet, jetliners and supersonic airliners.

The books are not that cheap, but compared to real flight training texts they are SUPER cheap!  Also, think about how much your time is worth?  Reading these texts (or others) can save you tens of hours fooling aimlessly on the flight sim!  

I also have several reference texts on aviation (general flight to IFR) which, although expensive (all “real” aviation texts are expensive) provide an excellent framework from which to develop your knowledge and skills.  I cannot stress strongly enough how much more enjoyment you will receive from using flight sim if you have done a little homework and research before beginning.  Like most things in life - there is a direct relationship between what you put in to what you will receive.

Another good source of information and technical information has been computer pilot magazine.  This magazine is excellent reading providing necessary information on PC manipulation, flight sim tips, aircraft manoeuvres, add on evaluations, tutorials and much more.  Buy a copy or a subscription at PC Aviator (Computer Pilot Magazine).  If you are looking for something less expensive than one of the real life flight manuals, then point your browser to Hal Stoen's web site and order his very in-depth CD on how to fly, take off, navigate, land - and everything else in-between.  The information presented in the DVD is very well written and in my opinion a very worthwhile investment for either "green" or experienced virtual pilot.  Finally, there are many flight sim forums and I've found that most folks involved in the hobby are very helpful and eager to help a "greenhorn"  - so find a forum you like, register (it's free) and make some acquaintances.

Flight Deck Construction

The construction of a flight deck is a natural progression as you become more experienced in flight simulation.  Constructing  a flight deck can be relatively easy and comprise a few hard wired panels with various switches, or it can involve replicating a fully functional Boeing 737 front end.  Many serious simmers have actually purchased the forward section of an aircraft and installed the various flight components connected to Magenta Project software. 

The main flight deck building constraints are: your available time, hanger space to build your flight deck, computer and software experience, and available funds.  The more high end flight decks can cost upwards of $20,000 USD and incorporate many hundreds of man hours in construction.

My Flight Deck

Space and time were limiting factors in the construction of my flight deck.  I just didn’t have the required time or real estate to construct a high end cockpit.  Furthermore, I wasn’t particularly interested in outlaying the funds to tackle a project of this size.  

I decided to dedicate one large office desk to provide the real estate for my flight deck.  This desk would incorporate the computer, panels, yoke and twin 24 inch LCD panels.  

For the most part I fly the Boeing 737 series aircraft, Beechcraft B-1900D & C aircraft modeled by PMDG and the Aeroworx B-200 King Air.  As my flight deck was not going to look anything like a real flight deck, I decided that some “artistic licence” could be used to add duel aircraft functionality.  

One aspect that concerned me was the fast pace that computer systems and software were being developed.  I didn’t want to expend considerable time and money constructing a flight deck that may not be suitable for use in a few years time!   Perhaps in the future I will construct something a little more grand when and if I have more space available and free time. 

My panel has been designed to accommodate both the CP Flight 737 MCP and EFIS and the GoFlight GF-MCP instruments. The later is used when I fly the PMDG B-1900, Aeroworx B-200 King Air or any other default flight simulator aircraft.  Likewise, I have three PFC throttle quadrants which can be changed very easily and quickly dependent on aircraft type. 

I am using the following instruments and hardware:


EQUIPMENT

SUPPLIER

COMMENTS

CP Flight 737 MCP (for 737 series aircraft only)

CP Flight Italy

Excellent, but expensive.  Software can be difficult to set up

CP Flight 737 EFIS  (for 737 series aircraft only)

CP Flight Italy

Excellent, but expensive

GF-166A VRP (NAV 1/2 & ADF) (3 modules)

Go Flight USA

Very good.  Easy to configure (yellow or red digits)

GF-RP 48

Go Flight USA

Very good.  Easy to configure

GF-T8 (2 modules)

Go Flight USA

Very good.  Easy to configure

GF-MCP (for GA aircraft only)

Go Flight USA

Very good.  Easy to configure

GF Tall Stack for instrument panel mounting

Go Flight USA

Very good.  Easy to place/change instrument.  Ridiculously expensive

PFC Cirrus 2 console

PFC USA

Outstanding product once configured correctly  Select model carefully

PFC Jet liner yoke

PFC USA

Outstanding product once configured correctly  Very smooth

PFC Throttle quadrants -jet, turbo prop & single

PFC USA

Outstanding product once configured correctly  Very responsive

PFC Rudder Pedals

PFC USA

Average.  Excellent pedal resistance, but, toe brakes difficult to operate

Z-Keys programmable keyboard

Z-Keys aka X-Keys

Operates flawlessly. Excellent


I constructed a box using MDF fibre board to house the instruments on the desktop.  The rear of the box is open for wiring and cabling.  The front of the panel is screwed to the frame which allows for modification of the front panel or panel replacement if I decide to add or remove instruments.   The box is designed so that it fits over and around the PFC cirrus 2 console.  Two or three flat screen monitors can sit on top of the box.

More Realism

I was tired of squinting at the computer screen and manipulating virtual switches using the mouse.  I wanted a higher level of realism.  If you feel the same, perhaps it’s time to develop your own flight deck.   Click here to view the specifications of the Precision Flight Instruments console. 

The set up is not perfect, however, perfection is difficult to achieve if you are not attempting to replicate a flight deck accurately and to scale.  The keyboard sits neatly behind the curved flange of the C2 console and is easily reached when required.  Throttles are easily changed and are dependent on the aircraft type flown; currently I have throttles for the Cessna 172, twin props (shown) and the 737 series aircraft.  Two 24 inch flat screen monitors (just visible) sit on top of the grey box.  You will note that there are two MCP panels.  One is dedicated to the 737 aircraft whilst the other is for all other GA aircraft.  Barely visible in one of the images is Z-Keys.  Z-Keys is a flat keypad which allows keystrokes to be generated.  Basically it's a glorified keyboard that is easier to use than a standard computer keyboard as the buttons are dedicated to a particular action. 

Click the console image (below) to view several photographs of my flight console - VIEW MY CURRENT GENERIC FLIGHT DECK

Development of Dedicated B-737 Flight Deck Simulation

As at July 2011, I have decided that I will take the plunge (in time and financially) to develop an almost fully functional simulation of the Boeing 737. Flight simulation has moved ahead in leaps and bounds over the last 5 years and I believe that today high end simulations are possible without being a highly experienced designer or programmer. I have yet to decide on which console (MIP)I will opt for, however, have narrowed the search to either Engravity or Flight Deck Solutions. In addition to full functionality and glass displays I will also upgrade my PFC yoke to a yoke designed by ACE Engineering in Canada. In time, I will also purchase dedicated throttles by Sim Revolution in Italy. I expect that the new simulation project will take around 6 months to complete, however, this may be a longer project if I decide to replicate the overhead panel (still undecided on the overhead).

I will be utilising consoles, panels and equipment from the following companies: Fly Engravity, Illusion, Ace Engineering, Flight Deck Solutions and CP Flight. I also intend to source genuine Boeing equipment to retrofit if possible. I will also be upgrading from FS9 to FSX . As the project begins to take shape and develop I will develop a Blog dedicated to the construction phase and operation of the project.See the 737 Flaps 2 Approach Blog here.

Precision Flight Controls (PFC) Hardware Evaluation

Rather than parrot phrase what PFC has documented (see their web site), I thought I would concentrate on the console, yoke, throttle quadrant and rudder unit  usability.  For a more detailed evaluation please read the .pdf file listed at the bottom of this section.

Cirrus 2 Professional Console (C2)

Overall I am pleased with the Cirrus 2 console, however. As with anything you purchase, there are always good and bad points.

My main reason for purchasing the Cirrus 2 over the older standard Cirrus console (Cirrus) is I was told the Cirrus 2 has better engineering, internal components and wiring.  Other benefits in my opinion were: hobbs meter, clock/stop watch, night lighting, elevator/ rudder trim dials and trim wheel.  I also was in favour of everything being within one larger and heavier console rather than two smaller, lighter consoles.  Apparently, the Cirrus 2 engineering is also more responsive to inputs than the older Cirrus console.  

One very good feature with the C2 is the method that PFC have used to construct the internal components of the console; They use replaceable modules.  This means that if you have a problem with something, they replace the module that is causing the problem.  This makes it easier to repair the console should you develop a problem.

The overall construction of the C2 is very solid – black sand-coated metal plate which weighs a tad under 20 kilograms;  you will not easily break it!  The console unit being heavy does not require attachment to a desk or table, unlike CH yokes and throttle systems.  

Another benefit of the console size and weight is that the yoke and throttle quadrant (which attaches directly to the console box) can be used without the whole “box’ moving.  I found when using CH Products that the yoke and throttles, unless securely attached to a desk or table, often moved when used.

The attachment points for connecting the serial port cable that links the C2 to your computer is also very well made, and disconnecting the unit (if necessary) is very quick and easy.

I have found that some of the switches on the C2 do not work as promoted unless using default Microsoft FS9 aircraft.  I mainly fly the PMDG 737 jetliner and Aeroworx B-200 King Air twin prop aircraft, and only a few of the C2 switches operate with these aircraft.   As a result I had to alter the configuration and set up using a registered version of FSUPIC for a number of switches.  This isn’t really an issue, however, it takes a bit of time to work through each button resetting the button and key presses.   If I had known this before purchase, I probably would have opted for a separate jetliner yoke and throttle system rather than the Cirrus 2 console.  

I rarely use all of the standard switches on the C2 preferring to have separate GoFlight switches for lights, pitot, anti-ice, auto feather, etc.  The main switches/levers I use on the C2 are: gear lever, flaps lever, elevator and rudder trim, handbrake and the manual trim wheel.

I’m not impressed with the design of the switches used by PFC – considering the cost of the unit; they are cheap toggle switches which are small, difficult to see, and are positioned in hard to reach areas of the console (such as behind the yoke handle).   Why cannot PFC use “real” aircraft switches, dials and knobs? 

The RIC rotary dials (top of console in curved area) only operate with the PFC instrument console, however, the knobs duplicates rotary dial movement for the GoFlight MCP and FS9 default instrumentation. 

The landing gear lever is constructed from stainless steel with a plastic knob, but operates as it should. and the indication lights for “wheels down” are 3 large green/red lights – green for gear down and, red for gear up or transition of gear.

The manual elevator TRIM wheel is EXCELLENT.  This would be the one thing that makes the C2 worth the money.  The trim wheel is constructed from plastic, large enough to grip with your hand and is ergonomically located on the console for easy access.  Both the manual and electric trim (switch located on yoke handle) are very responsive to very small inputs from the virtual pilot.  Likewise, the elevator trim and rudder trim dials, located on the console, are also very responsive.

The flaps setting switch/lever is quite flimsy, but still functional.  The lever does not have indents and you must push it down every time you want to change flap increments.  There is no light indication that the flaps have been deployed; this would have been a good feature as often flap deployment is forgotten!

I was VERY disappointed with the night lighting.  Basically they have several globes with a dimmer switch – very poor in my view as I was expecting back lighting similar to that displayed on the MCP developed by CP Flight in Italy.   The bulbs are white light and I have replaced them with night vision red bulbs.

I find the stop watch and clock beneficial, although it can be difficult to view at times as the console is quite low.

The curvature of the top part of the C2 looks very impressive, however, the curvature inhibits you placing anything directly above the console such as an instrument stack.  The flat area directly behind the curved front plate is an ideal location to store a keyboard.

Worse points of the C2 are: 

I would rate the C2 as 8/10.  

PFC Jetliner Yoke (JLY)

I find the JLY to be outstanding.  It’s the best yoke I have seen and used to date (other than a real one).  The yoke setup and calibration is straight forward, although calibration can be a little time consuming if you calibrate null zones.  All setup and calibration is done via the PFC software interface.  The smoothness in operation of the yoke (roll and pitch) is excellent and the yoke is very responsive; at no time do you experience binding, grinding or staggering, which is a common problem on some of the less expensive yokes.    The yoke is constructed from metal and the main yoke pin is constructed from stainless steel.  All other components are metal.  The all metal construction makes the feel of the yoke superb.   It actually gets tiring holding the yoke in a forward or back position if the aircraft is not trimmed correctly!!  There are enough switches on the yoke to programme most things (a few more would be beneficial, but they are not really needed).  A drawback for flight simulation is that the yoke does not have a HAT switch.

I found I had to alter one of the tension springs with the JLY as it was making a noise (a tingling sound) when I pushed the yoke all the way forward – small alterations are apparently common and easy to do (you need a screwdriver).

I rate the JLY 10/10.

PFC Throttles

I use the 2 engine jet, turbo prop and Cessna style (with carb heat) throttles.  All the throttles are easy to configure and calibrate and very easy to change on the C2 console (just make sure you enable the correct throttle in the PFC software interface before starting FS9).

Throttle quadrants are constructed from industrial grade plastic with plastic handle knobs, but metal handle stems.  I would have preferred an all metal casing for durability, solid feel and look.

The throttle units do not have any additional functionality (i.e. TO/GO), unless you purchase the B-737NG throttle system.

I have not had any problems with the throttle units.   I rate the throttle units 10/10.

PFC Pedals and Rudder Assembly

A very solid base-plate constructed from metal hold the heavy duty plastic pedals in place.  The assembly is very solid, with strong springs to provide a very realistic peddle push (unlike CH products which slide backwards and forwards with little tension).  Installation is very simple as it is plug & play.  Set up and configuration is by the PFC software interface.

For some reason I cannot activate digital toe brakes on my set up, therefore, I do not use the braking capability of the pedals.  I have a button on the yoke set up as wheel brakes, so this is not a problem to me.

I find that the rudders occasionally fail to operate correctly – I have no idea why.  When I restart the flight the pedals operate again as they should.  This problem occurs 1 in 30 flights thereabouts.

Although the pedals are mounted in a solid, heavy, all metal unit, I find that when you depress the pedals the unit will lift up from the floor.  This can be solved by securing the unit to the floor with screws/bolt.  The unit comes out of the box with velcro, however, this does stop the unit from lifting upwards.  

The actual pedal boots are quite large (as in a real aircraft).  I find that the indentations on the pedal surface become painful if you fly barefoot!  I wear boots or shoes to counter this problem.

Considering the price of the pedals and the overall size/weight/freight of the box they are shipped in, I probably would not purchase them again (based on price only).  They are rarely used except in cross wind landings and taxiing (I rarely waste time taxiing about the place).  

I rate the pedals 6-7/10 (this is based on occasional failures, inoperable toe brakes & the unit lifting from the ground).

Software

The PFC software is intuitive and very easy to use.  An extra menu item is placed in the FS9 menu.  All calibration, instrument configuration, throttle, console, and yoke selection are made from within this software interface.

Configuration of switches, keys, etc is straight forward, however, calibration can be a little frustrating, especially if programming null zones. I recommend reading the PFC documentation several times.

For programming the various switches, I recommend using a registered version of FSUPIC.

Value for Money

The C2 is expensive, but if you enjoy flight sim I think you will be happy with the purchase.  There is NO comparison between the C2 and JLY to CH Products – period.  PFC products are highly responsive to small inputs made by the pilot and as such the degree of realism is enhanced immeasurably.

Support

Initial sales support from PFC was excellent.  E-mails and questions were answered promptly.  After purchase support is lacking other than support via the PFC forum.  Usually questions get answered within a 2 week period.   I cannot comment regarding telephone support as I have never used this.

PFC is a very small company developing and constructing specialist products for a relative small market.  This is their excuse for not offering more speedy support.  That said, I believe that their support could be a little more efficient.

Overall Opinion

Jetliner yoke is superb and well worth the investment
Manual trim wheel located on the C2 console is excellent as it gives you a better command of elevator movement.
Elevator and rudder trim dials located on the C2 console are worthwhile
Rudder pedals, despite having problematic toe brakes, are solid and provide 100% more realism than other products on the market
Throttle units, despite looking a little too plastic, operate well

The Cirrus 2 console in my opinion is not worth the extra capital outlay considering that much of what you are paying for you do not use unless flying default aircraft – and then there is the poor switch ergonomics. 

However, much of my decision to purchase the C2 console, was based upon what I told concerning the internal engineering and components.  Not being an engineer, this is something I know little about and can only go on the “trust and honesty” of the PFC salesperson.

Practical Advice for the New Virtual Flyer

Flight sim is a game, but it can be a serious minded game which requires technical know-how and in-depth knowledge.  If you want to get the most out of your sim, be prepared to spend considerable time reading to fine tune your knowledge on the theory of flight and other aviation related topics.  Furthermore, it can take hours of learning to be able to do things correctly.  Flight sim is not an arcade style game.  If you want an arcade game DO NOT purchase flight sim as you will be disappointed and become very frustrated in your inability to fly your chosen aircraft.  For every hour spent on the simulator, there is probably an extra two or three hours spent reading appropriate manuals and texts - that's if you want to do things correctly.  If you just want to fly around in one of the several default aircraft supplied with the simulator, then you can be up and away within an hour or two of learning.

I recommend that the budding virtual pilot spend the time to read the help section located in the learning centre of flight simulator.  I also suggest you complete your virtual Private Pilot License - yes it takes time, but the results will be well worth the initial effort.  

Read the manual and instructional lessons that the program comes with.  Do the virtual flight instruction (in the Cessna 172 - not the bloody Concorde, 737 or Lear jet!).  Learn the theory and its practical application.  Buy a cheap airplane model (plastic or metal type) and think through what the flaps, elevators, rudder and aerilons actually do.  Try and learn the physics!  

Then practice the BASIC manoeuvres in the sim and keep practicing them until you are proficient.  Only then should you progress to a more advanced aircraft. I realise that this require time and patience (something somewhat lacking in today's "want it now" world), but the transition to a larger more complex aircraft model will be much easier and fulfilling if you begin this way.

If you attempt to fly an aircraft without the necessary skills, you will become very frustrated.  I always, when learning a new skill, first become proficient at the skill in the Cessna 172 before migrating a larger, faster and more complex aircraft.  If you cannot master the skill at 80 knots then you sure as hell will not master it at 250 knots.

After becoming proficient with a basic understanding of flight and manoeuvres, add the weather scenarios and continue practicing.  Remember to also practice your skills with the sim set to a night setting.  

After proficiency is reached, learn to use the navigational instruments such as VORs and NDBs (any idiot can follow a GPS).  Learn the flight instruments so you can simulate IFR flying and instrument approaches.  Teach yourself about STARS (outdated terminology as at 2004 - STARS are now called terminal approaches), NDB, VOR and other instrument approach and departure procedures.  Obtain some instrument approach plates - you can download them for free at some internet sites, or buy a plate package (well worth the dollars).  PURCHASE a few flight simulator training aids (books I am referring to here); they REALLY do help in increasing your knowledge base and enjoyment, while decreasing the amount of time you waste perfecting something you know little about.

After you are proficient in a general aviation aircraft (single or twin) upgrade to a medium sized jet such as a Fokker or Boeing 717-200.  Become proficient flying it before you move up once again to a larger aircraft such as the 737 series aircraft or airbus.  Also learn what V-speeds are and follow the flap V-speed recommendations set out in the aircraft checklists.  You will be surprised how much easier it is to land when you do this!  Where do you find out the V speeds?  Search the Internet or post a question on a forum.  There are several excellent aircraft operational sheets available for free from several web sites.  

Finally, and this especially pertinent with aircraft purchased from PMDG, read the enclosed documentation and flight manuals.  I am amazed at the questions I see on various forums from individuals who have failed to read the manual - that is why the manufacture gave it to you - to read! 

This is the way I taught myself.  It is a SLOW, often tedious and repetitive process, but the rewards are worthwhile when you can simulate (within the confines of the program) landing a 737-800 in a crosswind, in poor visibility on a short runway using an approach chart/plate IFR.

Oh and one last thing, expect computer hassles and glitches.  This is where a forum can help enormously.  Why re-create the wheel when others have had the same problem and solved them.  You will find (I was very surprised) that most of the flight simmers on the web are really helpful individuals and answer most e-mails very quickly.   GOOD LUCK and have a nice flight!

Airports and Approaches

An Interesting article on approaches and airports (written by Michael Doherty - Developer of Doherty's Difficult & Dangerous Approaches - available from http://www.avsim.com/.  Search string is 'dddav01.zip'.  (Thanks Michael for permission to use the excerpt).

Excerpt

The vast majority of modern international airports are designed and constructed with 'safety' a primary consideration. After all, airlines would have a very difficult task building strong customer bases if their aircraft kept falling out of the skies on final approach - definitely not an attractive way of maintaining market share! With that in mind, it is probably fair to say that most commercial and domestic airports are rather bland affairs – uninteresting and boring slabs of reinforced concrete runways lying on huge areas of cleared flat real estate. Airlines like it that way, insurance companies demand it that way and fare paying passengers feel safer that way.

But from a pilots point of view that doesn't mean to say that these airports are undemanding, or indeed, as tame as their appearance might indicate. It would of course be totally irresponsible and a gross overstatement to suggest that all airports are dangerously difficult to land on - that clearly is not the case. But the truth of the matter is that some airports are far more difficult to land on than others, therefore pilots are required to have a high degree of flying skill, and must regularly go through rigorous training schedules to keep them at peak performance to enable them to handle every conceivable situation.

Approaches can be difficult in many different ways. I'll only cover a few instances here. For example, runways can be unsafe due to shoddy repair work. Ongoing construction can also present safety issues; you may remember a couple of years ago a Singapore Airlines Boeing 747 crashed and burst into flames on take-off with a large loss of lives. The reason given for the aviation disaster was that the captain of the aircraft unknowingly took off from Taipei International Airport from a runway that was under construction during a night flight. The aircraft hit machinery that was parked on the runway. It could have happened just as easily on an approach. Another danger is intrusive terrain encroaching on a flight path particularly that of a final approach. Then there's obtuse entry angles where aircraft have to make sharp turns onto very short final approaches. The list goes on an on, which includes all types of bad weather conditions, malfunctioning instruments and equipment including engine failure, poor ATC communications, fuel problems, payload difficulties, fire, sickness, etc. The list is too extensive to repeat here, but I'm sure you get the message

Then there's extremes like terrorism. Imagine being the pilot of an aircraft that had a terrorist onboard. As a pilot, you'd be as jumpy as all hell, wouldn't you? Thankfully, the simulator world is free of terrorists – we've got hackers instead – but hang on a minute, aren't they terrorists too? A worm in your simulator could bring your aircraft down in the sea off Hong Kong just as easily as a real terrorist onboard a real aircraft could do the same! But back to the real world; what if there was a bomb onboard your aircraft.? You sure wouldn't be singing 'Happy days Are Here Again,' if you knew that an explosive device was primed to go off in the cargo hold any tick of the clock? Or what about a passenger going berserk on an aircraft (it does happen). All these things affect a pilot's performance. And here's one that is rarely mentioned at all – pilots themselves can make even the safest approaches dangerous. How? Inexperience that's how! Look at the evidence, there's thousands of accidents at small airports all over the world every year, which are largely caused by new and inexperienced pilots.  That said, It is very difficult to find truly difficult and dangerous commercial international airports. But some do exist and you will be introduced to these progressively throughout the series.

I've mentioned all of this to encourage you to appreciate some of the difficulties and dangers involved in bringing an aircraft down to earth safely. The next time you fly your simulator you might remind yourself of these facts and fly a better approach due to your greater awareness.

The Last Word - Protect Your Hobby and Respect Developers and Freeware and Shareware Will Continue to be Available  

I regret having to say this, but do not apologise for doing so.  (Note:  Image at left is copyright PMDG)

There are some people in this world that are dissatisfied with everything – they go through their entire miserable lives moaning, groaning, and generally complaining about everybody and everything on the planet – that is what they do and they do it well.

I personally know a number of developers who have released freeware only to be blasted with thoughtless, rude and sometimes obnoxious emails from fellow simmers. They had good responses too, but it was the cruel and unkind comments that lingered the longest in their minds. It made them wonder if producing freeware was worth their effort.  I have tried to convince them that it was. 

All developers should expect a little criticism from time to time, one grows as a result, but there is nothing clever by being discourteous or bad-mannered, it will only turn developers away. Think about that for a moment … can you afford to allow that to happen to our hobby?

Training/Tutorial Downloads

As I find tutorials which I believe are good value, I will have them converted to .pdf documents and list them here for download.  Please be aware that some of these .pdf files are quite large.  A few of these tutorials are from Computer Pilot's web site (free for download).

Downloadable Documents (.pdf Format)

Automatic Detection Finder ADF (.pdf)

Basic Navigation Concepts (.pdf)

Basic VOR Navigation Tutorial (.pdf)

First Flight in Cessna 182 (.pdf) Flight Navigation (.pdf)

Flying a DME Arc (.pdf)

Holding Patterns 1 (.pdf)

Holding Patterns 2 (.pdf)

Instrument Course (.pdf) - NOTE 9 MEGS

Instrument Landing System ILS (.pdf) Performing a STAR (.pdf)

Ready Reckon to Determine Cross Wind Component for Landing (.pdf)

VFR Navigation Log (.pdf)

Visual Flight Rules VFR (.pdf)

V-Speed definitions (.pdf)

 

 

[Top of page]