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Life skills

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I'd like to offer some things I've learned from flight simulation that have carried over from my hobby into my real life.  I certainly never expected nor intended for this to happen, I pursued this out of curiosity and simply to have fun, but I am discovering that my approach to being a pretend pilot has strengthened me and helped me with skills that I can use in real life on a daily basis.  

Mental agility.  It didn't really dawn on me how exceptionally intelligently engineered the 737 is until I got FS2Crew for the NGX and practiced real life PF flows.  The design of the flight deck and the different roles of the PF and PM are the result of thousands of engineers thinking hard and listening to and working with pilots with millions of hours of flying experience.  Think of what happens in the 90 seconds from brake release to climb thrust.  The PF and PM follow a rigid series of procedures designed to complement their piloting skills.  Every possible contingency has memory items that are designed to provide the most effective response to an emergency and the crew practice these until their muscle memory is automatic, freeing the brain to focus on assessing the situation.  I'm nowhere near this level, but just attempting to learn this stuff is fabulous mental exercise.  This trains you to be alert, react quickly, scan, and constantly evaluate what effect your actions are having, to stay one step ahead of the situation.  Even if you're not involved with something as complex as flying an aircraft, if you can carry over this approach and apply it to your real job, it will benefit you greatly.  It will keep your mind agile and challenge you to improve.

Communication.  Another area that flight simming has helped me in real life is with communication skills.  Do yourself a favor and start listening to liveatc.  Learn the phraseology, and try it out when you fly.  You don't have to jump into vatsim right away, just practice going through the motions of switching frequencies, contacting atc, and trying to emulate what can happen in a real flight.  Or just start talking to your virtual co-pilot.  The key is to verbalize what you're doing, this trains your brain in another way and you learn even more about what you're doing.  I picked a short real world flight that I was interested in and listened a few times on liveatc, then I picked a day, followed all the frequency changes, and wrote down the transcript.  Then, I tried to fly it.  Man did I learn a lot this way!  It took me 3 or 4 tries to really feel like I nailed it, and when I did -- simulating the same atc comms that came up in the real flight, reacting to the instructions -- it was a huge sense of accomplishment.  ATC communication is especially good practice because you have to be quick, accurate, and complete.  You have to think very fast, at the same time you're flying the plane, so it's multi-tasking at its very best.  I have been able to handle meetings a lot better at work now because of this practice.  I'm not kidding, try it out, you will be amazed how much better you are able to communicate after you push yourself to reach this level.

Practiced Calm.  This last skill is perhaps the most useful thing that you can get from flight simming.  I respect real pilots for being able to remain calm in scary life-threatening situations.  Now, clearly in flight sim, nobody's lives are not at stake, but that doesn't mean you can't act as if they are.  Learning piloting skills is learning to not panic.  Can't handle the procedure turn?  Busted through your assigned altitude?  AP disconnected?  Don't panic!  You'll get it wrong the first few times anyway.  Reboot, start again, but think about what you did wrong before, study how to do it right, and practice again.  Takeoff and landing happen very very fast, and over time that scary freaking-out feeling you get will gradually give way to a sense of control, a sense that you know what to do if things go south.  This should be your approach to life too and it will serve you well.  Don't freak out when you make a mistake or if you're faced with an uncomfortable unfamiliar situation.  Assess, study, learn, think, and practice.  Before you know it, you'll develop nerves of steel and be known as someone who can stay rational and calm even in the worst situations.

There are many here who chafe at the suggestion that flight sim is a game.  "It's not a game, it's a simulation," is a common refrain, as if gaming is too base of a term to describe what we do.  Recently on reflection, however, I find that to be perfectly honest with myself I should admit that it is a game, but that there is no harm in saying so.  If I were a real world pilot, or ever wanted to become one, then perhaps I could say that I was simulating the experiences that I would plan to have in real life.  If I was planning to use flight simming to lead to real training, real simulators, a real aviation career, then I could call this simulation.  But I'm not!  This is a hobby, this is just for fun, and calling it a game doesn't make it any less worthy, especially in light of the above learnings that have made this hobby a lot more valuable to me on a personal level than a lot of the actual career development skills I have spent my time on.  A game is something you try to win.  The goals of this game are to fly the world's most advanced machines, as realistically as possible given modest hardware.  I don't find that silly at all.  So even though Candy Crush is also a game that people play trying to win, I don't think we as flight simmers need to feel any angst that our hobby is in the same category.  We can safely admit that it's a game and not feel dirty about it!

Now go have some fun!

Andrew Farmer

My flight sim blog: Fly, Farmer, Fly!

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To think my girlfriend makes fun of me for playing flightsims and says I should play call of duty like other guys...

David Womacks CFI,CFII,MEI

Copilot: Captain have you ever flown a 777 before?

Captain:Nope,but we got a strong tail wind and the bar in Hong Kong stays open till 5am, so lets kick the tires, light the fires and, get the hell outta here.


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Yeah that's s tough one, it's hard to convince someone else who isn't as enamored with the magic of flight. There's nothing worse than being on short final, fully configured, mentally prepared to stick the landing on the first brick, and suddenly in she walks "oh no, airplanes again? I thought I told you to take out the garbage!"

Andrew Farmer

My flight sim blog: Fly, Farmer, Fly!

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