One question I’ve asked myself several times when sitting in front of my computer is: “can this thing really teach my to fly a real aircraft?” and “How can I use this in my training?”. I’m sure many of you have also wondered this same thing. How you use a simulator to practice for flying in the real world depends on a few factors which I’ll cover in this post. For this, I’ve used X-Plane 11 to supplement my real world flight training. If you’ve been wondering just how well a flight sim can prepare you for your training and how to use one, stay tuned!
Perhaps the best way I have found to use a flight simulator in my pilot training is to use it practice my checklists! If you’ve even flown just a little bit you know just how important checklists are to aviation. If there is a task in a cockpit, there is a checklist for it. Because of this, there is a mountain if information pilots need to be familiar with and better yet, have memorized. For most people, sitting down and memorizing the hundreds of tasks in order for all of your checklists is extremely difficult on its own. This is where using a flight simulator comes in. I’ve personally found that practicing your checklists at home with a simulator has helped me out tremendously. I no longer have to constantly flip through my checklist booklet to find what I need to do. After just a few days of at-home practice, I essentially have my checklists memorized! A flight simulator helps you memorize your checklists by having you associate each task with a physical action rather than trying to shove it all into your mind and risk forgetting it later. I highly recommend using a flight simulator to help you get familiar with your checklists if you’re having trouble with them.
Another very helpful use of flight simulators for pilots, especially beginners is using them to practices different traffic patterns! I know for me personally, when I was starting out, traffic patterns for different airports where pretty confusing and rather intimidating. Using a simulator to help me practice and understand the different procedures has helped me out quite a bit. The benefit to using a simulator is that you don’t have the pressure of real traffic to worry about so you can focus on what turns you need to do, and when.
The biggest part of your flight training when you’re starting out is going to be maneuvers. These include steep turns, ground reference maneuvers, stalls, etc. While these are great to practice in a real plane, the biggest issue many people run into is the cost to fly. Flying for any amount of time can get very expensive very fast. While nothing can replace practicing in a real aircraft, if you’re having trouble with something, using a flight simulator to help you practice basic thing on your own time can help tremendously. Like I said before, no simulator can replace practicing in a real aircraft. You can’t feel your plane in a simulator like you can in a real plane. You should always practice in a real plane if you can. However using a simulator as a supplement is always helpful.
Last but certainly not least, you can use a simulator to try out new aircraft! Eventually in your aviation career, you will have to change aircraft. Consistently changing up which aircraft you’re flying is extremely beneficial to your general knowledge of aviation. Practicing your skill and knowledge of different aircraft models and systems will make you a more well rounded pilot. The awesome thing about flight simulators is that you have hundreds of different aircraft at your fingertips. With these aircraft you can study their systems, flight characteristics and general information. Like I said before, knowing how to operate a variety of different aircraft will make you an extremely well rounded pilot.
In conclusion, using a good quality flight simulator (such as X-Plane or MSFS) can be extremely beneficial to both your student pilot career and professional pilot career. With that being said, it is not a replacement for your training in the real world. Flight simulators should be treated as a supplement to your training. They are however, still very beneficial to your general aviation knowledge and skill. If you enjoyed, feel free to drop a comment and share!
If you’re wondering what simulator to use, feel free to check out my other post on Microsoft Flight Simulator and Xplane 11 Here!