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Sims vs Real Flight - Part 3 Night Flight

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I had to do the first night flight of my PPL training last night. Generally, I can say that FS2K2 has been invaluable for my training but I was surprised to see how little it prepared me for actual night flight. In no way does the sim prepare you for the dark abyss at the end of a runway on a moonless night. I was surprised how unsettling it was! The few lights surrounding the pattern seemed to race by - everything accelerated. My landmarks we all gone! The approach lights seem to hover in the air and runway markings are much less distinct in real life. I also expected the gauges to be backlit but no - in the Cessna 152 all you get is a little red floodlight over your head. Now the Archer night panel seems that much more realistic!In short, the FS world just isn't dark enough to be completely realistic. Also, simulated immortality doesn't do justice to the sobering experience of flying over terrain at night. Even the engine sounds different - more fragile somehow... It's beautiful yet terrifying at the same time! :-eekDavid

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If its not dark enough, then just decrease the brightness and contrast on ur monitor

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>I had to do the first night flight of my PPL training last >night. Generally, I can say that FS2K2 has been invaluable >for my training but I was surprised to see how little it >prepared me for actual night flight. In no way does the sim >prepare you for the dark abyss at the end of a runway on a >moonless night. I was surprised how unsettling it was! The >few lights surrounding the pattern seemed to race by - >everything accelerated. My landmarks we all gone! The >approach lights seem to hover in the air and runway markings >are much less distinct in real life. I also expected the >gauges to be backlit but no - in the Cessna 152 all you get >is a little red floodlight over your head. Now the Archer >night panel seems that much more realistic! >>In short, the FS world just isn't dark enough to be >completely realistic. Also, simulated immortality doesn't do >justice to the sobering experience of flying over terrain at >night. Even the engine sounds different - more fragile >somehow... It's beautiful yet terrifying at the same time! >:-eek >>David David,Congrats on completing your night flight! I'm a private pilot with about 83 hours of flight time. Passed my checkride back in March of this year. About a month ago, I took an instructor up with me to do some night flying since it had been quite some time since I'd flown at night. As you're discovering, night flight can feel like and quickly become an IFR experience. I recall having my vision filled with the bright lights of San Antonio, Texas at one moment and then, on a downwind for Castroville Municipal Airport, staring into a sea of darkness. Such dramatic transitions can certainly give you an uncomfortable feeling that gives you a very mild preview of spatial disorientation.Since a big part of the experience of night flying is part biological (dramatic light differences, feelings of vertigo when you lose sight of a real defined horizon just as you feel a bump of turbulence, etc.) and part psychological ("has the engine always made that noise?") - it's going to be hard for any flight simulator to try and capture that experience!Best of luck to you on your flight training!!

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Congrats David,Night flying will test many physiological functions... how about what happened to your depth perception? Fun, huh?Night flying surely is a unique and acquired talent.

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Congrats and Amen to your comment about the sky in Fs2002 not beeing dark enough. I agree.

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Agreed! My first instructor took me to a small airport on Lake Huron-had me take off over the lake and then promptly recommened that I not even try night flying until I got an instrument ratiting, showing how without a horizon at night it can be downright similar to instrument conditions. I just flew a night flight at night last night-although being extrememly familiar with the small uncontrolled field I flew toand its location it still amazes me every time how ^&&(& hard it is to find the small runway which is tucked into the middle of a city.As they say-at night if you have an engine failure aim for a dark spot-when you get close turn on the landing lights. If you don't like what you see-turn them off! :-lolhttp://members.telocity.com/~geof43/Geofdog2.gif

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>and part psychological >("has the engine always made that noise?") - it's going to >be hard for any flight simulator to try and capture that >experience! :-lol Oh boy, that is so true. On my first night x-country, every sound that engine made was novel. I just couldn't remember ever hearing that plane make those noises. Something was wrong and the engine was about to depart the plane followed shortly by the wings. Fortunately, my CFI was with me and assured me all was normal, including my perception that things sound a lot different when flying in the pitch black of night. After several more night flights on my own, I am finally getting more comfortable. Thankfully, I'm working on my instrument rating and that has helped allay some of my fears about night flying.BTW, passed my IR written this morning with a 97. Stupid pitch, bank, power questions.

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A very good point you bring up. The first thing I noticed was (in the real world) how dark airports are at night. Airports are much easier to see during the day. in FS, it seems to be the opposite. Flight sim's airports are way to bright and easy to find at night. I have found that in the real world, the airport is sometimes the darkest spot on the horizon. Especially those with airport lighting pre-set to low or medium. Even flying out of DFW The airport looked very dark. The lights were not bright at all. We departed and flew almost over the airport and I could only identify the runways by the airplanes on them. Runways are very hard to see at night, unless you are looking down them. FS does need to get darker. DAVE

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Thanks, guys, for your perspectives and support. I just did my second X-country this morning: ITH-DSV-ELM-ITHDSV (Dansville, NY) is a pretty little airport situated in a valley in the Fingerlakes. It looks pretty much in real life as it does in the sim except rwy 18 is really hard to fly a left-hand pattern due to a sizable (by eastern US standards) ridge to the north. Naturally, that should have been the active and I had my mind set to use it. I looked at it for quite awhile before I decided that wasn't going to work and ended up using 14 instead. There were times during my training that I thought flying was pretty easy - even easier than in the sim. Now, I actually think it is pretty hard - hard, at least, to do everything properly. This is not something that can be mastered within the typical time span of a PPL, as far as I can tell. The simulator certainly helps with many aspects but you need to be very disciplined to go through all the steps as in real life to make it truly beneficial (flight planning, weight and balance calcs, T/O/Landing distances, radio calls including FSS - which ofcourse require some imagination).It's weird but the thing I like most about my flight training is that it has helped me appreciate and use the simulator more effectively. Don't tell my wife that I spent several thousand dollars to get good at MSFS!! ;-)David

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