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Guest iflyskyhawks

Can FS help with real flight? My experience as a studen

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I see these posts from time to time and they range anywhere from real pilots bashing flightsim as a game to others defending FS as a sustitute to real flight. I just started working on my PPL after a 14 year hiatus (I had 13 hours from 1988) and here's what I found.In 1988 I started lessons in a Part 61 school. I had been flying FS for several years even back then and my instructor was impressed with how quickly I progressed. I soloed after only 5 hours and quit after 13 hours only because I ran out of money. Since then MSFS has been pretty much my only outlet in terms of flying. During the early years I got a thrill out of flying under bridges (in the sim) or down busy streets but now I get more enjoyment from practicing difficult instument approaches, flying new complex planes, or trying techniques I learn about in magazine. You can call it a game but I use it as a study sim.The big step in my evolution was the purchase of a yoke and rudder pedals with toe brakes (both CH). You can't fly realistically with a keyboard or joystick and autocoordination makes it all but impossible to maneuver properly. I've since bought a Hagstrom keyboard emulator that has allowed me to create a modest homecockpit environment and the TrackerIR (best addon EVER) allows me to practice real life scans of instruments and traffic and fly patterns with great precision.So, how did this benefit me as a student? I had pretty much written off my hours from 1988 but after my first lesson at a Part 141 school, they were amazed how much I had retained. While each lesson in the syllabus is expected to cover two flights, I'm covering two lessons in every one flight!The Cessna 152 handles very much like the Dream Fleet Archer with only some minor changes in the numbers. My instructors say that sim enthusiasts have a tendency to keep their eyes inside the cockpit, which is undesirable. TrackerIR allows me to get a virtual reality feel from flying VFR and that translates almost perfectly to real flight. After my lesson, I go right home and practice what I learned over and over again on the sim. The airport looks just like it should and it's amazing how familiar I am with the local countryside thanks to FS2K2.That said, unless you fly FS seriously, I think it can create bad habits. I didn't bother much with checklists in FS because they were a bother. It's almost funny how many times I ran out of fuel - sometimes just after I landed! You can bet I force myself to use the checklist in reallife and now I use them in the sim to reinforce that. I also have a tendency to not bother checking the ATIS consistently in the sim while in the real world you can't do that. "Ithaca Tower, Cessna 30Q is 7 miles west with...ummm...ummm" just doesn't cut it.Limitations of FS2K2 include the pesky model issues, including the whopping power decrease that comes from carb heat. The latter makes it impossible to fly level in slow flight manuevers. Even the CH yoke is a poor substitute for the real one, which glides in and out effortlessly and real rudder/nose wheel control in a Cessna 152 is frustrating compared to the sim. The real nosewheel is guided by some sort of bungee cord (or at least feels that way!) and lags well behind pedal movements. Most things are actually easier in real flight IMO. Certainly trimming - the real elevators are not nearly as sensitive, or perhaps it's the feel of positive g's that keeps you in line. The situational awareness that comes from being surrounded by scenery is difficult to completely duplicate, although TrackerIR helps! Landings feel faster because you can see all the little marks in the runway go whizzing by. I suppose there is also the "death" factor that grabs your attention in real world flight and can never be matched by a sim. ;-)So, if you are a pilot and think FS is nothing more than a game, I say you get out of it what you put in. If you are a student, then hopefully you are already seeing the fruits of your simulated labor. If you are addicted to FS but hope to fly someday, I say hang in there. Buy books and magazines, practice the maneuvers, try to replicate a cockpit environment as best you can afford, learn about ATC and weather, use checklists, and don't be too quick to trade in the Archer for some hot jet. Realize there is a time to fly under the Golden Gate Bridge and a time to fly patterns around your local field, over and over. I think you will see a difference down the road!David

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Hi David,Thanks for sharing your experience. I enjoyed your post.

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HiIndeed nicely written and relevent for me as I expect to solo today after my CFR.:)Ron

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Hi David,Nice story, enjoyed reading it. It reminds me of a more or less simular experience I had a couple of years ago:I'm using Flight Simulator since version 2, so I have a 'couple' of hours behind the yoke. about 4 years ago I wanted to find out, if I could fly the real thing. So I drove to a local airfield nearby (EHLE - Lelystad) and rented a Cessna 150 for an hour, with instructor ;)Before we stepped into the plane, the instructor asked me if I had any flying experience. I told him no, because I thought it would sound a bit silly to tell that I had FS-'experience'. The instructor let me taxi the C150 to the runway and he, of course, took off.During the initial climb, I asked him if I could take over the yoke. He was reluctant, because flying was rather difficult and I had never done it before. But after some persuation he agreed. From that moment on, I flew for an hour, did some pattern flying, made coordinated turns, used the avionics etc. The instructor never touched the yoke untill he landed the aircraft. He was absolutely amazed... I reckoned it was save to tell him that I do had some previous experience, so I told him about FS ;)About a half year later I was on a holiday at one of the small Dutch islands and there happened to be a small airfield with a grass strip. I rented a Cessna 172 and this time I told the instructor that I had a little experience.Again I could taxi to the runway and I waited for him to take off but nothing happened. He looked at me, asking where I was waiting for and told me to take off. Now I was amazed that I was being allowed to take off. After a brief moment I thought what the heck, so applied full throttle and rotated smootly at 60-65 knots. Again I flew for an hour, did some VOR navigation and had a nice ride. When it was time to land, I entered the partern and turned final to begin the approach. The runway came closer and closer and at about 1/4 nm before touching down I still was controlling the aircraft. The instructor told me to land the aircraft. There was a very stiff crosswind, and I began to feel a bit unsure. In FS a crosswind landing is very difficult to do, so I asked him to take over and land. After these 2 experiences I was amazed how well I did given the circumstances. I think this is true for every serious flight simmer. Because of FS, one is familiair with the cockpit and the principles of flying and that helps a lot. In a sense, flying the real thing is a bit easier because of the 'gravity' feedback. In FS the only way to find out that one is descending is the VSI. In real life your stomach can tell too :)Take care,Egbert

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Man that sounds great... I want to try that out one day... but things i have to look out for is, i'll probably have to wait a few years until i give it a try. The truth is, the reason i don't go out now is because My appearance is Arab. And its not easy these days to go out and rent a plane, even though I was real eager to more than a yr ago. So with that said, Flight Simulator is something i can turn to enjoy avaition.Al

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Hi David and Egbert,I can't stop to think about my experience very close to yours too.The first time I've had taken the ride to a real aircraft was on a glider. I used to fly with FS since V3 and wanted to experience the real thing. Glider are cheaper and by then, it was the only aircraft experience I could have afford. Same questions from the instructor: any previous flight experience? no. When stepping in the tiny cockpit, an assistant tried to pull away the rudder pedals. I asked for it and they where quite reluctant but I managed to have them.After taking off, pulling off the cord, I handed the glider! WOW! felt like I always did it! I made turns, with the help of the rudder (quickly adpated from pushing the ball to pulling the string) and landed the bird safely at the desired spot! the instructor asked me more and was amazed at how I've been able to handle the glider, with no previous experience. I explained how FS helped me with the proper equipment (Thrustmaster F16 HOTAS system + CH Pedals by then) to coordinate my controls and get accustomed to the T scan and the general handling of the aircraft.Later after, a couple of years, I decided to go for my PPL. This was like feeling back home then. FS was v98, and I've added more simulated time. I soloed after 7 hours, and did it with a wind blowing at 30kt about 20 degrees to the left. Was pleased to make my first navigation after my 12 hour. I've not flown since 2 years now and miss it a lot, but I'm actively considering flying back before the end of the year!Flight Simulation has been of a great help for me to better understand the overall flying thing, and prepare my skills to it. I do have the tendency though to look inside instead of outside. I know it and I'm doing my best to avoid this. I would not say FS actually help you get your PPL faster. Experience in the real thing is unreproductible and necessary. But it helps a lot to prepare one's mind to the all flyng thing. At least, this has been true for me!

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Glad to see so many of you have had similar experiences! I spent two hours this morning and two last night practicing some of the manuevers in the sim that I know my instructor wants to work on this afternoon. It makes me feel much more confident going into my lesson. It's also saving me some money in flight time! For those of you who have never flown for real, I strongly encourage you to at least take the $40 discovery flight almost every FBO offers. If nothing else, you'll appreciate FS that much more.David

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Speaking from someone who took up flying also in 1988, then abandoned it after accumulating approx. 30 hours, i purchased fs2002 and it has really brought back a lot of stuff I had forgotton about and will (I believe) help me out a great deal when I get back into the real cockpit again in a couple weeks.

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Very interesting post, David.No doubt flight simulators like FS2k2 help. My experience: insurance companies require aircraft owner/pilots to buy recurrent training every 6 or 12 month at one of their approved facilities. This includes 15 hours in one of these big motion simulators that cost much more than the aircraft itself. Ever since I started using the sim on my PC at home, I "breeze" through the drill sessions in the big sim. Instructors there say they can tell when someone practices at home.I am convinced if you can fly smoothly one of the "better" aiplanes in FS2k2, despite or especially while using the CH yoke and pedals, you will become a much smoother pilot in the real airplane. The beauty of these sims is that you get to pick where you find their value. I see definite value in the following:1) training for instrument flying and procedures2) learning a soft touch on the controls, this because sims are always much more sensitive to control inputs than real airplanes (this is true of the big sims too). 3) emergency drill training. Practice one engine out procedures in twins in IMC! 4) cockpit resource management (CRM)In my opinion, the one biggest shortcoming of sims is a realistic yoke/pedal system (maybe with console). Hopefully someone is already working on this.Anyway, good luck to you and those who got the "flying bug"!Charles

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Eric,You can find a post here somewhere that I did awhile back. In short, TrackerIR uses infrared to allow mouse control by moving your head. You can see it at naturalpoint.com. Now you can use the virtual cockpit and simply change your viewpoint by moving your head. My first concern was that if I turned my head fully to the right, how would I still see the monitor?? Well, it's not like that. After you get used to it, you find lateral movement of your head actually works better than turning it (the sensor needs to be able to see the little silver dot on your forehead anyway). Think of how it felt to get used to a mouse the first time. A little clumsy perhaps but pretty soon you found small movements of your hand could make the cursor sail across the screen. Your head will be just as easy to train!It sounds really gimicky but for me it was life-altering. I no longer have a use for the little hat on my yoke (suppose it could be a trim switch like the real thing!). Imagine having your gaze focused at the threshold of the runway as you turn from base to final. It's way better than the padlock views some sims have tried to do. If anyone has tried it and didn't like it let them post their experience here but for me it has been a godsend!David

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David,Great analysis of your experience! I agree with many of your points and especially the closing remark - "you get what you put into it". That's very true. The more time you spend making it "real" (going through checklists, doing engine run-ups, etc.) the more it can benefit you.As a whole, I think my experience with Flight Simulator at home and it's effect on my real-world flight training was a very positive one. I can only imagine stepping into a cockpit with no background about, for example, what each and every instrument does. That alone would be very intimidating!I've posted my own experience on my web site at :http://www.noticetoairmen.com/flightsim.htm

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