Can Flight Sim Teach Pilots to Fly A Real Plane?

Now that you’ve flown your Cessna from Cape Cod all the way down to Fort Lauderdale 150 times on Microsoft FSX, will those long hours help prepare you to fly a real aircraft? After all, there are flightsim pilots who have used the same software for a decade or more and know a few of the aircraft models like the back of their hand.

The cockpit of a PMDG 747 - it's quite realistic.
The cockpit of a PMDG 747 - it's quite realistic.

It depends on who you ask. Some “real” pilots believe there is no connection at all between flight simulators at home and an actual airplane. One wag said FSX will prepare you for flying an airliner as much as games like Battlefield and Modern Warfare prepare you to be a soldier.

However, others agree flight simulation prepares pilots several ways:

  • Learn basic aviation concepts and theory like navigation.
  • Instrumentation is very close to the original.
  • Pilots learn to be “light on the controls,” an approach that avoids hard, sudden movements that could be disastrous in a real plane.
  • Inexpensive. PC simulators afford pilots an opportunity to get familiar with fight basics without spending a lot of money. Real flight lesson fees can add up. In the U.S., for example, to get a license pilots must have a minimum of 40 hours of flight time (in a real plane) with a certified instructor.

Flight Simulator Drawbacks

At the same time, there are a number of negative aspects to consider when determining if flight simulators can prepare a pilot for real world flying:

  • No physical feedback. Real flying is done by feel as much as with sight and instrumentation. Tires on the runway, turbulence, air rushing over the wings; all provide vital information to the pilot. In addition, real planes have significant noise, so much noise that communication is generally done over headset.
  • Pre-flight checks. While flight simulation enthusiasts can just jump in a plane and take off, real planes require several pre-flight checks. Preparing the engine, magnetos, gauges and other checks are critical to a safe flight.
  • Poor for high stress flying like deep dives or acrobatics. Spins and other maneuvers are unrealistic.
  • Visuals, while good, are still well short of real-world imagery. This can be problematic for pilots who are used to VFR.
  • Home pilots who don’t use a yoke will be at a disadvantage when getting in a real plane. A yoke and pedals is really a necessity if flight simulation is being used to prepare for real flight training.
  • Certain aircraft, like helicopters, fly much differently on a computer than in real life.
  • Flight hours with a sim cannot be logged to help complete the basic requirements for a pilot’s license. There are certified simulators that can be used for this purpose. However, getting to actually use them is complicated and expensive.
  • Some pilots believe flight simulators develop bad habits that might be hard to unwind once behind the yoke of a real plane.

View From Microsoft

What does Microsoft, the maker of Flight Simulator, the biggest selling flight sim for over 20 years, say about their products and real flight training? Bruce Williams wrote in Microsoft’s “FSInsider” that,

Flight Simulator includes several features — including Multiplayer shared aircraft, Multiplayer Tower, and enhanced flight analysis — that make it an excellent training aid. You can replay any flight and see both horizontal and vertical profiles. More importantly, an instructor can monitor another Flight Simulator pilot over the Internet or a local area network to offer help on many topics, including changing the weather, or simulating failures in the aircraft.

Here are the specific areas Williams says Microsoft Flight Simulator will help with real flying:

  • Multiplayer: Sharing Aircraft- share aircraft over internet or LAN.
  • Multiplayer: Tower- instructors can act as ATC.
  • Flights- pre-set flights with specific airports, weather, views and more.
  • Weather- create a wide variety of conditions.
  • Engine, System, and Instrument Failures- learn how to cope with equipment failure.
  • Flight Analysis- track how the pilot followed instructions.
  • Map View- view navigation aids directly from the map.
  • Views and Windows- multiple views help what the pilot sees with what is actually happening to the aircraft.
  • Flight Videos- use as training aid.
  • Autopilot – allows pilots to concentrate on new skills.
  • Slew Mode- good way to learn navigation instrumentation.
  • IFR Training Panels- familiarizes pilots with Instrument Flight Rules.

Beyond the growth in technical skills, Williams feels flight simulators really shine by helping pilots with their mental game. The physical demands on pilots are not that tough. However, keeping sharp mentally is a constant challenge. He believes flight sims help newbies and veterans alike stay up-to-date on controls and instruments.

Real Test

Hans Krohn, a die-hard flight simulator fanatic, decided to put the question, “Does flight simulation prepare us for flying a real plane?” to a real test. In an article he wrote for FlightSim, he detailed how he approached a commercial flight simulation company to find out if his home computer skills would help to fly a real Boeing 737.

He found a German company that offered training in a 737-NG simulator near the Berlin airport. He booked a one-hour session but had to schedule it four weeks off. On the big day, he met his flight instructor, a retired 747 pilot.

The instructor explained that the 737-NG simulator they would be using was a combined effort between Boeing, Thales and General Electric. At a cost of over $20 million, it was roughly one-third the price of the real plane. He said GE guarantees them that the simulator can do everything the real plane was capable of, and vice versa.

A full size 737NG flight simulator.

A full size 737NG flight simulator.

At first, Krohn was nervous because while the instruments were more or less the same as at home, they looked very different--their positioning was off. He said,

As my eyes darted around in the cockpit, trying to find familiar reference points, a rather worrisome feeling of disorientation started to creep up my spine. I realized this cockpit was an alien environment for me, despite all my preparation!

He relaxed as the session went on. For the next hour, Krohn flew a total of eight times, from good-weather landings at Frankfurt Rhein-Main to crosswind landings at tricky airports like Innsbruck and Malta. Some of the differences to his home setup were immediate, like using a yoke instead of a joystick. However, he was able to make eight landings with no crashes. Each time he learned to make little adjustments like starting flaring a little earlier than he had at first.

Excited by the experience, he booked another session for a complete flight from Innsbruck to Munich. So, did he find the answer to The Question- do flight simulators prepare pilots for real world aircraft? “For me it has, beyond any doubt,” he said. He said if he is ever on a commercial 737 flight experiencing an emergency and the crew asks if anyone can land the plane, he will raise his hand!

Personal Preparation

Krohn had great success with the 737-NG simulator. At the same time, he is a hard-core flight simulation enthusiast. In the end, it may be the super-users like Krohn who can successfully make the jump to becoming a real pilot. While anyone can fly flight sims for fun, once you are in the chair with a real airplane under you, all of a sudden the games are over. If you are only a casual user, you may want to leave the real flying to the pros.

Inside a Full Commercial Flight Simulator

The video below shows a flight in a full scale 747 simulator which is run by Qantas.

Download iconDon't forget... We have a huge selection (over 24,000 files) of free mods and add-ons for MSFS, FSX, P3D & X-Plane in the file library. Files include aircraft, scenery, and utilities All are free-to-download and use - you don't even need to register. Browse on down to the file library here.

Ian Stephens

Ian Stephens

Ian Stephens is a flight simulation industry expert with over 20 years of experience and also has a keen interest in aviation and technology. Ian spends a lot of his time experimenting with various simulator packages but has a love for Microsoft Flight Simulator X because of the huge selection of add-ons available. However, Ian also has copies of Prepar3D and X-Plane installed.

Ian has been writing for Fly Away Simulation for over 9 years. Should you wish, you can contact Ian via email at


Leave a Response

The content of the comments below are entirely the opinions of the individual posting the comment and do not always reflect the views of Fly Away Simulation. We moderate all comments manually before they are approved.

J D GoodTue, 10 Jul 2012 23:30:32 GMT

Flight sim can get you use to navigation and instrument time. Landing in a flight sim, doesn't even come close to real flight. Yes it gives the illusion you are a 747 Captain - put your butt in that left seat, and there is a real possibility of dying. Yeah, you'll sweat a few gallons and you'll learn about... sink rate.

E H van Walsum Wed, 18 Jul 2012 15:32:22 GMT

Dear Flightsim users,

As a Captain in real life, it does feel for only flightsim users that its the reality.

Despite the comments, its not. You miss the real feel and forces, which you have on the real expensive level D flightsims for real pilots. Although the navigation and basic flying skills with instruments and the principles of flight can be learned at home, the reality is the necesary feel to be in the actual aircraft. Therefore , the FAA and the JAA have the requirements to fly basic hours for only the PPL , not spoken about the tremendous amount of knowledge needed for the ATPL with practical exercises before you even go for a type rating and in the simulator based only for the type itself, with the necessity of making 6 touch and goes in the actual aircraft. After that you need to be hired by an airline, where you are trained on route as an First officer to get used to the actual aircraft. This is the reason flightsim users are not capable of flying the actual aircraft. Get the real flights, its absolutely wonderful. Good luck to you all.

Evert van Walsum Captain B737 all series

JOSEPH MATEUSThu, 19 Jul 2012 15:20:19 GMT

Mr. Captain Evert van Walsum, you are wrong. Your comments are extremely presumptuous, pretentious, conceited and arrogant. I have more than 1000 hours in the FSX, and if you put me in the cockpit on a real 737-800 I guarantee you that I can take off in that aircraft, fly it and land it with no trouble.

In fact, if you ever try fly the FSX simulator, you be surprised to find out that it is not a kids game, but rather a very realistic experience. Surely, the FSX is not exactly like flying the real AIRPLANE, BUT IT IS SO REALISTIC that the skills you acquire in the FlIGHT SIMULATOR X are sufficient to be able to successfully fly the real airplane. You will also find out and that you must know how to fly a airplane in order to fly successfully in the FSX.

Of course, you, as a captain of a real airplane with a God complex do not want to admit that if you train and fly in the FSX you can also fly the real airplanes, because it makes you feel less important and less glorious. But you don't fool me at all. And yes, the FSX makes you feel that you are flying the real airplane, as all its G forces characteristics are built into each of the FSX aircraft, as well as side wind drift and different landing and take off speeds for different aircraft. The airfield altitude is also built in, therefore taking off and landing in a 9000 feet above seal level airstrip requires higher landing and higher take off speeds.

Further, the software used in the FSX is exactly the same program software in the commercial flight simulators, where you train and learn how to fly. That exactly why in the above article Mr. Hans Krohn as an experienced FSX pilot was able to take off, fly and land successfully in the commercial 737 simulator.


JOSEPH MATEUSThu, 19 Jul 2012 15:55:53 GMT

Ian Stephens, you wrote above that anyone can fly in the Flight Simulator X. Now this is total nonsense. Unless you take the full lessons in the built in flight school with instructor Rod Machado, you will never be able to take off, fly and land an aircraft. Of all people, you should know better that this.


Peter WilsonFri, 20 Jul 2012 09:49:22 GMT

Microsoft Flight Simulator in no way prepears a novice to fly a real airplane. It is a very good procedure trainer once a pilot has been trained. for a total newbie it is excellent to learn about airplanes, and basic systems. I am a pilot, and an instructor so I have a sound understanding of whats required, and involved. Remember it is a game the computer flies.

Bastian GoebelMon, 30 Jul 2012 20:43:08 GMT

Dear Joseph Mateus,

I am afraid that I have to disappoint you. FSX as simulation software does not even come close to commercial level simulation. FSX has an flight model, which is based on (simplyfied) calculations of aerodynamics and flight mechanics. The commercial level simulator has tables of aerodynamic and flight mechanical data (e.g. coefficients, masses or thrust values) which are measured on many flight tests of a real airplane. Therefore, these data packages have to be bought from the aircraft manufacturer and are really expensive. That is why commercial simulators are able to work in "real-time" (normally 60Hz). Instead of calculating they just have to look in tables. That is a completely different way of simulation.

LG LoffelmacherTue, 31 Jul 2012 00:11:42 GMT

These scenarios of wannabe FSX pilots landing ANY simulator and thinking it transfers over to real life are in for a rude shock. I've gone through the flight training and have years of flight under my belt but I remember those first hours in an aircraft, and what an otherworldly sensation it was. The new sounds and sensations would overwhelm any rookie. Add in a total lack of reference to any flight parameters, and how close you really are to totally losing the aircraft, and you have the mixture for disaster. Insidious sensory overload would start setting in as soon as you lose sight of the airport, It's like a vice grip closing on your head as you go into tunnel vision and your mind goes into a fog. The reality that there's no one in the next seat to bail your sorry butt out of the situation would finish the deal. 99% of you would end up in a smoking crater in a Cessna.

The 737's sink rate and the lag in power spool up in the jets would kill 100% of you. I've watched a couple shows where they put some 12 year old kid in the sim and of course "they" always land it first time every time. The guy shadowing the operation in the right seat coaching Little Johnny Pilot is really running the show........nice try real life everybody would be in the advanced stages of "PIO"........pilot induced oscillation.....that's just another name for wildly bouncing all over the sky.

Gerhard BooysenTue, 31 Jul 2012 12:39:42 GMT

Wow, hot topic!

Ok I have been a fs9 and fsx pilot for about 6 years now and have well over 1800 h in all sorts, with about 500 of it in the pmdg 737 ngx 800. I also watch hundreds of YouTube vids on 737 real flights and I can honestly say that there is no way I would be able to just get in and go in the real thing, yes I would be able to soso program the fmc and set up auto pilot but as for fiscally handling a Cessna 152 or 737 for that mater, no way. I flew with my friend in a Cessna 172 while he was building up hours and that's when I knew the 2 are just not the same. Not even the navigation is the same. It's just to different and add real pressure of life and death and you have it.

Fsx is there for us to have fun and dream of being able to fly, don't spoil it!!! You want to be real, go get your real licens.

Have a good day now.



Joseph SchmidtTue, 31 Jul 2012 13:26:09 GMT

When I saw this, I had to reply.

I've been using flight simulator for just over 13 years now. It's always been my dream to fly ever since picking it up at the age of 6. Just recently, about a 10 months ago, I decided that I would make my dream a reality. I started my flight training in late September of 2011. By January, I had acquired my private pilot certificate, by May, my instrument rating, and now I am finishing up my Commercial Multi-Engine Certificate.

I do attribute this success to my hours spent on flight simulator, especially for my instrument rating. It helped me get the basics of flying an ILS, building skills to follow the GS/LOC. Indeed, it was a little rough practicing maneuvers and that sort of thing, but MSFS did a great job of introducing me to the world of flying. I had a much stronger perception and understanding of how the instruments in the airplane worked - even if I had spent most of my early years attempting to fly the Concorde around NY in FS2000!

Flight Simulator can be a great aid to those who take it seriously. I did go out and spend the extra buck on the Yoke and Pedals, and although they are much different from an actual airplane, it does help you get into the "feel" of using it.

Best of luck to all,


Jerome WieseWed, 01 Aug 2012 16:24:05 GMT

Forget the 747 and all the other heavy aircraft. I wish someone would just take a person who has never been in an airplane ar all and let that person fly the Cessna 152 or 172 in FSX for as much as 40 hours (the min for PPL), and then put them in a real Cessna 152 or 172 and see how they do. Maybe then we could tell once and for all if FSX has any value to real world flying.

AndréWed, 01 Aug 2012 20:24:51 GMT

Mr. Joseph Mateus

You are right when you say that the complexity level of FS is so high that it can be compared to real life. FS can be used as a procedure trainer, specially for IFR, that's true also. You can simulate failures, bad weather and crosswind landings. I know that, because I used it a lot! But what you don't know is that in order to fly a real aircraft, you need to feel it. And that is something that the FS cannot give it to you. Actually, not even these 30 million comercial simulators can be completely accurate. But more than that, FS does not teach you how to deal with your crew, or with the ATC, or with the ground staff. It does not teach you how to make decisions. It does not teach you how to deal with 6 working days a week, 12h a shift. And it does not teach you how to deal with the responsibility of flying hundreds of passengers that rely on you every single day. You can say that some comments are pretentious and arrogant, I say that your comments are ignorant and offensive. Being a pilot does take a lot of work and constant studying. I have no idea if you are interested in becoming one, but if you are, please change a bit the way you see things.

A 737 pilot (that used FS to get there, but much more than only that...).

DennisThu, 02 Aug 2012 02:45:19 GMT

I see not how anyone can actually answer this question with an absolute no. I think that like most every question in life, the truth lies somewhere between the two sides .. but both, in trying to make their point, overstate reality. Do I think I could SAFELY fly a 737 with no additional training? Course not. Do I think I'd have a better chance at saving a plane from an emergency than Mr.Average Joe that doesn't know an engine stall from a wing stall, yes I do. The simulator, along with a lot of hobby-based research, reading, study, etc has firmly taught me what stall speed means, what sink rate is, how to read instruments, basic controls, etc. As to the 'feeling' of G-forces, etc in a real plane - I am pretty confident that would be a benefit to a sim pilot - as it provides information without having to interpret some gauge on a screen or panel.

As a real-life RC pilot, I can tell you many full scale pilots fail at RC flight simply because of the lack of this feedback information. I'd be interested in putting some real world pilots in front of a simulator for the the first time - and see how well they deal with the LACK of this feedback. I think there would be some surprises there as well.

In short, and IMHO, everyone should calm down. FSX can and does impart knowledge to some degree, but I don't think anyone would claim it should spit out an FAA license.

If any real world pilot would like to take me up and find out for sure, I'd be there anytime, any-day!

Donald MacLeayThu, 02 Aug 2012 05:14:40 GMT

MSFS does a good job teaching you the procedural process of operating the instruments and navigating. If you then get in a real plane and stare at the instruments you will quickly get airsick! Real pilots are trained(forced?) to check the instruments frequently. Experienced pilots can tell sink rate just by the pull on their stomachs. On a real flight with my brother he was able to set up a 500ft/min sink rate without even referencing the instruments. There is no substitute for that slippery feeling you get fighting gravity in the thin air. MSFS is good enough to get me into a state of disorientation if I don't practice situational awareness, and if they would continue to improve it, it would be even more rewarding. I want them to simulate prop wash over control surfaces for acrobatics, add a visual stomach meter that shows instantaneous acceleration, and a scoring system for completing virtual airline routes. As for the commercial pilots out there, remember the astronauts think what you do is boring. :)

E H van WalsumTue, 07 Aug 2012 09:28:32 GMT

Dear Andre, thanks colleague. And all of the reactions to the very offensive answer on this blog starting with Ian Stephens, who is interested in the views of people with a friendly discussion. Thank you for your wise reaction on the Mateus topic - It shows people who are not capable of flying in the real world due to the lack of knowledge of MCC.

Funny is the answer from Dennis - If FS was so real comparing to real flights, it would spit out FAA licenses and JAA, which it is not... Why is that? Now we know, thanks to Dennis.

Funny is also Donalds remark; astronauts looking down on the airline pilots as being boring, right he is! God complexes are out of the question, you will fly in the real world for 5 minutes and will be fired if you act like that. Therefore it's lack of knowledge stating this remark. I am very glad that there are so many FS users, which i give the chance to fly the 737 in the level D sim once and a while, are friendly and nice willing to start flying in the real world . I show them all problems involved in emergencies , let them fly raw data, and , as a TRI help them with a start into the real world.

Furthermore, the mentality has to be right from a person, otherwise the airlines will never let you in. All details are friendly due to the fact we dont need JETS PILOTS , but JET PILOTS.

Guys good luck and continue FS study and if you have the chance start flying in real life.


Dave SMon, 27 Aug 2012 18:13:39 GMT

As someone who has been flying flight simulator from the early days of Bruce Artwick, I have to say my knowledge of flying with all its intricacies has been a great experience.

Sure you can't replicate the real thing, obviously, nor can you replicate the 4D effects of being in a real cockpit, but the operational procedures, checklists, can be very real if you make it.

Anyone can fire up FSX and hop in the default Cessna and press CTRL-E and takeoff. But add in all the addons and a sim like PMDG MD-11 or 737-NGX and there is no way you can just CTRL-E with it. There is a full procedures setup from cold and dark if you wish. Weight and balance INIT, Programming the FMC with all SIDS and STARS, alternate waypoints and bearings, otherwise all kinds of bells and whisles go off and the plane does not fly very well. That kind of preperation in invaluable to be put into a real commercial full motion simulator.

Give some credit to developers like PMDG for creating the next best thing to replicating it for the majority of us at home who cannot have the privledge of firing up a real simulator but get to know all its working. There is a reason why they have over 1000+ page manuals.

These kind of aircraft you wont land very well first few times until you know the systems and how the plane reacts to different circumstances, weather, ATC Vectors, and emergencies.

Full credit to all the real pilots out there who have dedicated years of training, but don't discount FSX and the realism that can be had pushing is boundaries to the limit. After all there is not many programs or games as some of you call FSX that pushes the hardware limitations of PC's and drops most of them to their knees in performance.

AldrielFri, 07 Sep 2012 01:14:46 GMT

There's no way a simple flight simulator like MSFS can help you fly a real commercial plane. Even a 30 000$ professional vsim (like CAE's Simfinity) couldn't prepare you to fly.

Only a Level D Full Flight Simulator (15-30 million$) could help you do it. That only wouldn't even be enough; without the proper training you could never safely fly a plane.

Maybe you could take off and land without crashing with all conditions perfect (if you manage to understand how the controls work). But there's no way you could get through any special event, emergency situation or special conditions.

CaptainK49Thu, 20 Sep 2012 15:42:17 GMT

I love everything about aviation. FSX has given me the opportunity to dream, learn and stimulate my imagination of flying. I have learned the basics and what the gauges mean, other than that I would not think that I could really land a real aircraft from being a simmer...but it's a blast to imagine it when I am simming!

AlanTue, 16 Oct 2012 03:43:50 GMT

"Spins....are unrealistic".

Yes, at least on most available "aircraft". However FSX is capable of reproducing proper spins, from incipient to fully developed. Getting reasonably accurate flight dynamics, for almost any type of aeroplane, is possible. If I can give a Phantom an insidious sink rate, aileron reversal and a vicious departure under the appropriate conditions then anyone can. Getting less demanding types to perform accurately isn't as difficult.

Of course it is not possible to deliver the seat-of-the-pants feedback of the real thing. Or the knowledge that if you get it badly wrong you and your passengers will die.

I think the problems are: 1) the supplied aircraft are meant for gamers, do not "fly" realistically and were never meant to. 2) Too many add-on aircraft are made by people who are very skilled at making them look right but give them flight dynamics of the nearest stock (unrealistic) aircraft, or slight tweaks thereof. Most of them are obviously not pilots. 3) Try Rick Pipers' Chipmunk, or any of David Maltbys' airliners. These guys are either pilots themselves, or get real pilots to keep them as accurate as possible. Or both. 4) Attitude. I teach teenagers the basics of flying using FSX. Some of them treat it like a game and learn nothing. Others are very good indeed and stretch my knowledge and skills. I am sure they will go on to be good pilots. 5) Lookout Simmers tend to become "instrument fixated" to the detriment of airmanship (especially lookout). I got my first pilots' licence in 1978 (gliders) and have flown about 16 different types, including twin turboprops (under the careful supervision of a professional Pilot) since then. (This was long before 9/11). I am currently qualified to fly microlights (ultralights in the US) and gliders.

David MendesTue, 29 Jan 2013 00:33:08 GMT

I agree with LG Loffelmacher and Bastian Goebel. The engine lag and the 60hz almost instant response from the Level D simulators used in training by airliners is not simulated on FSX, including the extra detailed flight dynamics and aerodynamics that as one of these fellas said, comes from endless measurements and processing by manufacturer engineers!

Think about are a passenger and your sitting beside the wing or beside the engine, does anyone remember to hear a slight trust used by the pilot for a few seconds and the aircraft goes speeding along the taxiway, picture the lag it takes...from it hits thrust required to move the aircraft to the time that the aircraft actually moves? This is just an example, id say its about 3 seconds! Imagine now this lag in the air, now Imagine it in Madeira LPMA for example! lol.... with the angle of attack, you with flaps up for landing, side-wind, the natural lag on the rudders, elevators, etc... especially when you are required to make many changes.

FSX comes close to do this but not exactly, also, aerodynamics created by the fuselage (except wings), the approach itself, I can picture myself trying a normal landing and reducing power just before the touchdown but getting it wrong and going around just because of that, remember, it takes 3 seconds to respond, do the maths lol... All of us flight sim pilots, not like JOSEPH MATEUS, own a lot of respect to real pilots. I say again, real pilots! I tried to simulate rough landings on FSX with the likes of PMDG 737-NGX and our Lord, if id do most of those in real life, we are talking disaster!! Complete disaster, so... lets keep the virtual world aside from the real.

No simulation at any point has managed to do its purpose of simulating real life situations, no matter how hard they try lol.

RachaelFri, 01 Feb 2013 18:28:55 GMT
Well I need to put in my 2 cents. I learned to fly in my FS98 had many hours in the 172 I had a yoke and pedals. I loved it so much I learned IFR and nav and did a lot of night flights in and around my area. For Christmas one year a loved one got me 2 lessons in a real plane. Long story short upon landing on my first flight my inst. ask for my flight log to mark of my check ride and ask if I would like to have the plane for an hour or so. I had to inform him it was my first flight. He could not believe it so I told him about my sim and after that. My lessons were more just having fun with some training thrown in. Now I fly a Bell 206 helio sim and I am going to move to the real thing soon. Check out my helio at youtube user name woodworkerme1there have been a lot of improvements since the last vid upload.
Diego SarmientoFri, 01 Feb 2013 23:01:24 GMT

Now, my question is this, can a real pilot to fly and land safely on a home Flight Simulator?

JoshFri, 01 Feb 2013 23:05:33 GMT

It's aerobatics not acrobatics. Acrobatics are done by gymnasts on the ground.

EricSun, 03 Feb 2013 18:18:57 GMT

I too have rented time in a commercial simulator used to train commercial pilots. In my case a MD80. My pilot instructor was very complimentary, and stated that I definitely had a future as a captain if I wanted it.

I was able to take off, maneuver , and land at KJFK, with no problem. However, I don't delude myself that it would be so easy in an emergency.

Commercial pilots train, and practice and live in these cockpits, I don't. In an emergency situation, there is the panic, and lack of time to acclimate to the cockpit. I feel reassured when another pilot is in the back with us, being shuttled to their next duty station. In an emergency, they could fly. Even if not their usual aircraft, I believe they will do a better job than I could. I do believe I could do an effective job as co-pilot and assist. Again, not as good as a pro, but serviceable, and better than nothing.

I believe in an emergency, I have a better chance of landing the plane than someone without sim time, but I have no delusions that it would be a landing that would compare with a professional pilot's. In fact, I would probably be inclined to use my knowledge of setting up a cat III auto landing rather than hand landing.

Monty HowardFri, 08 Feb 2013 16:00:35 GMT

Interesting read, human perception is a very interesting place to explore as demonstrated in the comments.

I have flown real planes, RC planes, been in commercial simulators, used PC simulators, and put C-5 Galaxy engines and numerous others thru their paces in the engine test cell facilities at Kelly AFB and Tinker AFB.

I can assure you there are distinct differences with each of those task and no one can directly tie one to another. Doing so would be a would constitute a serious flaw in judgement.

It is certainly more likely a person with PC simulator experience may (still not 100% certain) have a better chance of a successful take off, in flight navigation, and landing. I would not under any circumstance expect anyone with PC only exposure to be successful in landing a commercial airliner undamaged including with the assistance of type rated pilots and ATC in radio communication. A small Cessna 150, as light as it is, can sustain serious bulkhead or carriage damage from a hard landing

If I found myself aboard any flight with a suddenly disabled crew I would much rather the person attempting a landing to at least have PC simulator exposure and knowledge rather than no flight knowledge. They may not be able to save the plane from structural damage but the chance of a surviveable descent and roll out (with radio assistance) is much more likely than with someone lacking any knowledge of air craft controls and procedures. They would still need to follow the instructions given by ATC and type rated licensed pilots to help bring them down successfully. In an emergency saving life and injury is the primary concern.

If you enjoy flight simulation I urge you to take an afternoon and go for an introductory flight in a small single engine plane. Once you are there explain to the instructor your exposure to PC simulation and ask them to let you attempt some of the things you would like to try. Do this before you take off, you will likely have an hour for the flight so keep the list simple and enjoy your first hands on flight.

Keith WilsonFri, 05 Apr 2013 10:38:00 GMT

There are certainly some interesting comments.

I'm a relatively new user of flight sims and they are great confidence boosters. I do "fly" the flight sims out of respect for the real aviators and would like to have made the attempt at being a pilot if it weren't for the costs. I did consider joining the RAF in the UK but being dependent on spectacles ruled that notion out. I have been a passenger on several flights and would have to say I've been on scarier funfair rides so compliments to the pilots of those flights. I thank the flight sim developers for giving me a taste (to whet the appetite so to speak which is perhaps the purpose of flight sims) for the subject of aviation. The early pioneers especially have earned respect when one considers what aircraft they had to fly in!

The flight sims have introduced me to "explore" the world and "visit" destinations that I and many others could only have dreamt about. It's also good to be able to pick up a book about the subject of aviation and understand what the author is writing about. I have found this to be true about other simulators and not only aviation.

To the flight instructors and commercial pilots out there, I'm not suggesting that flight sims are a replacement for actual training. As I've already stated they can whet the appetite for young newcomers which isn't a bad thing as there may be a pilot shortage in the next ten years.

I would like to test myself in a real aircraft sometime (it is more appropriate to be tested by a qualified examiner). The only way to put a subject to the test would be at a very remote island where aviation rules and regulations don't apply and have the subject (I will volunteer if anybody is willing to sponsor me) fly around the island on their own. If anybody is in any doubt about my sanity then consider how the pioneers learned to fly - no flight sims, no instructor, no manuals or DVDs for that matter...

Neah FTue, 23 Apr 2013 23:54:22 GMT

This discussion is quite interesting.

As it happens I'll be in a commercial 737 NG Level-D sim for 2 hours, a couple of hours from now. I hold a PPL with less than 100 hours logged and haven't flown in over ten years. So I'm quite rusty. I've used FS a lot before getting my private and I think it helped a lot. My instructor at the time did not believe that I had no prior flight experience. My FS time allowed me to solo and pass the FAA exam with minimum hours.

The first thing I will try on the Level-D Sim is a short flight from West Palm Beach to Miami in severe IFR conditions with absolutely no help from the instructor and no auto-pilot. If i pull it off i'll ask him to throw in an engine failure :)

I'll let you guys know how this little experiment pans out later tonight.

Neah FWed, 24 Apr 2013 05:50:27 GMT

Just came back from the 737 NG simulator and wanted to share my impressions, but my first post didn't show up :(

SparksThu, 25 Apr 2013 06:15:07 GMT

Regarding the question of whether practice on a flight simulator alone would be enough to take off, fly, and land a private plane, it's been done. And hey, it was me who did it. :-)

Neah FSat, 27 Apr 2013 17:33:25 GMT

Here are my impressions after 2 hours in the 737 Level-D sim. First of all the level of realism is mind-boggling. The motion adds a LOT to the illusion. The graphics are not much better than FSX but the 200x40 degree wrap around visuals are great.

flying the plane is quite easy. The hardest thing to get used to for me was the tiller. It's surprisingly sensitive and the motion tends to make you dizzy if you're not gentle enough.

I've posted a video of the take offs and landings here:

I highly recommend you try this at least once.

Brian BSat, 17 Aug 2013 16:29:55 GMT

As a jet-rated Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) since 1973, I can attest to the value of some of the aircraft in FSX. Some are very good, others are not. The US Navy has been using FS 2004 as training devices for years. They call them "MicroSims." Lockheed Martin, the giant aircraft company, provides their version of FSX , known as P3D, as a training device under license from Microsoft. I would tend to listen to them before I would a private pilot with limited experience. By the way, in the US there is no such thing as a pilot license. It's a pilot certificate. The word "license" does not show up anywhere on it.

APMon, 18 Nov 2013 11:02:37 GMT

Some interesting comments there. Simmers getting defensive, pilots getting defensive.

When I first started flying, I was told to avoid flightsim as it encourages instrument flying. When you first learn to fly a plane, you need to actually learn to fly without instruments so you get the feel for it. You can then sense things like yaw, pitch and roll without relying on instruments. This is a huge advantage as it heightens situational awareness and improves judgement skills.

Now I can fly and land a Cessna 172 in real life (recreational fly 2-3 times a week ). I just jumped on flightsim for the first time and I could not even fly a proper circuit, but I did manage a take of and landing using the hard settings. Was it like flying a real plane? Yes and no. I have the saitek yoke and pedals, as well as a TPM. It is all pretty similar to the real thing, and I am sure with plenty of tweaking you could make the controls almost the same. But things are subtly different, like the prop yaw,Ground resistance is different. No noise, no feeling of load factor etc.

I would never say that an experienced simmer could not fly a plane, the concepts remain the same if you operate the aircraft as per the POH. But I would say that a simmer could not do it as safely as properly trained pilot with hours in the real plane. However, I have no doubt in my mind that a high hour flight simmer could obtain a private pilot licence (or better) with a lot less flight time than normal! Sparks is a good example

Hector WilberforceSun, 26 Jan 2014 18:06:55 GMT

"These scenarios of wannabe FSX pilots landing ANY simulator and thinking it transfers over to real life are in for a rude shock. I've gone through the flight training and have years of flight under my belt but I remember those first hours in an aircraft, and what an otherworldly sensation it was. The new sounds and sensations would overwhelm any rookie. Add in a total lack of reference to any flight parameters, and how close you really are to totally losing the aircraft, and you have the mixture for disaster. Insidious sensory overload would start setting in as soon as you lose sight of the airport, It's like a vice grip closing on your head as you go into tunnel vision and your mind goes into a fog. The reality that there's no one in the next seat to bail your sorry butt out of the situation would finish the deal. 99% of you would end up in a smoking crater in a Cessna.

The 737's sink rate and the lag in power spool up in the jets would kill 100% of you. I've watched a couple shows where they put some 12 year old kid in the sim and of course "they" always land it first time every time. The guy shadowing the operation in the right seat coaching Little Johnny Pilot is really running the show........nice try real life everybody would be in the advanced stages of "PIO"........pilot induced oscillation.....that's just another name for wildly bouncing all over the sky."

I had to laugh at your comments. Compared with my experience, these are very pessimistic remarks indeed. People really aren't as stupid as you like to think. Unless I'm somehow super intelligent, which I highly doubt is the case. Yeah I'm one of those "sim" pilots but also a flight simulator developer. Due to medical reasons I no longer fly in real life, but have Cessna 150 experience.

I once had a luck of having a flight on a British Airways 737 simulator, having been using FS2002 for barely 1 year. I was able to fly a very accurate circuit with no "pilot induced oscillations" or any such instability whatsoever, and minimal intervention by the BA FO seated next to me. The only error I made (on my first landing attempt) was failing to flare enough, so the landing gear collapsed on landing. But this is a far cry away from what you describe.

Secondly, when I took up real flying in a (real) Cessna 152, I was able to perform a stable well controlled approach in just my second ever hour of flying without the instructor having to do a thing. I'm not trying to be arrogant here, but I must say your idea that people with only a few years of simulation experience will end up burying their Cessna in a crater in the ground is ridiculous and immature. That certainly never came close to happening with me, because I already understood the basics of power/attitude and trim, energy management, and making small, measured control movements to accurately fly the aircraft, simulated or otherwise.

So, your comments were overly exaggerated and immature on the whole.

As for the engine spool up times on simulated aircraft - that is a reflection of the inaccuracy of that particular flight model and can be changed/edited in the aircraft's flight dynamics files. Jet aircraft I have produced simulate the slow engine response at low RPM's for jets very accurately.

Perhaps the funniest part of your post was this bit:

"The new sounds and sensations would overwhelm any rookie. Add in a total lack of reference to any flight parameters, and how close you really are to totally losing the aircraft, and you have the mixture for disaster. Insidious sensory overload would start setting in as soon as you lose sight of the airport, It's like a vice grip closing on your head as you go into tunnel vision and your mind goes into a fog."

Sorry, but in my first real flying experiences, I never had any of these sensations. Mental fog, No. Sensory overload, no. I already knew what most of the instruments meant, how to carefully handle the aircraft, the sensation of flying and motion was hardly alien to me anyway, and the motion corresponded to what I did so was hardly unexpected. So no, I can't relate to what you describe here. And I firmly believe it's largely THANKS if anything to flight simulators that I clearly wasn't 1/100th as naive as you were when you first flew a real plane - I already knew a lot more than most people without such simulation practice.

RoySat, 01 Feb 2014 06:20:37 GMT

Can you drive a real car if you are excellent at driving it on a computer game?.

FSX is a good game and it is in no way like flying the real thing.

Rodolfo RothWed, 16 Jul 2014 00:02:37 GMT

I've used FSX for years and can say that it's an excellent tool for small airplane pilot's that have been trained already. Since the high cost of flying keeps me out of the cockpit (yes I said cockpit) longer then I want, I can at least keep my instrument scan up and the basics if I use it in a real manner. One time, I hadn't flown for a few years and decided to get back in the game. I used it in a serious manner for a few hours, got my scan back and since I already know the feel of flight I flew like I never left. As far as people thinking they can jump into an airliner as a non-pilot with just FSX under their belt.....Well, maybe one hard core simmer in a thousand. There's a lot more to flying then pushing key pads. And BTY I've crewed and flown helicopters... FSX, not even close

EugeneSun, 03 Aug 2014 04:01:11 GMT

"Can you drive a real car if you are excellent at driving it on a computer game?."

Yes, and no. I've had experience with the force-feedback steering wheel joystick, , and it helped me quite a bit when I got behind a wheel of a car.

Translating it to the discussion at hand, NO FSX will not make one a pilot without real flying experience, but, YES it will be of great help in training, to help familiarize yourself with all the instruments and terminology and numerous other things. Will it help in a real emergency with a big plane - yes, it might, but only if you are as tough as titanium nails, and of course, with professional guidance via the radio. Someone mentioned CAT III auto-landing - well, FSX will at least can teach one how to set up such a thing. I fly MFS for a couple of years, and I'd never on my life would wish to get in a situation where i'd have to land a real plane with real people behind me, without proper training. But, if in an emergency a hardcore simmer gets in a cockpit of a familiar type of plane, keeps his calm, and receives proper guidance, the sim experience might just spell the difference between a total disaster, and a partial one. No, it will not be a perfect landing, yes, such a person might wreck the plane, like the guy in another example above who cracked the landing gear on a professional flight simulator, but landing with a cracked landing gear surely beats an uncontrollable crash.

BennyMon, 08 Dec 2014 09:34:15 GMT

Just to share my thoughts here. I've been flying FS2004 and now FSX for a couple of years. MSFS by default is geared more towards the beginner/casual flyer, whereby those who want to fly can just load the default planes, and just fly. But things change when you enter into the world of complex simulations offered by developers like PMDG. I started with Level-D 767-300ER and now transitioning to the PMDG 737 NGX and I can say that with these complex add ons, it is no longer a hop on and fly thing. The learning curve is pretty steep and there're lots of procedures to accomplish. You will get to learn the in depths of each system in the aircraft and how it relates to each other, for example procedures to start the turbine engines, the electrical, pneumatic systems etc..

I am a long time RC helicopter pilot and I know the difference between simulation and real flying. In RC helicopters, we fly the sim to fammiliarize with basic orientation. However, it is really different from real flying. Factors like adrenaline rush, depth perception, wind conditions and obstructions cannot be replicated in the sim. So the same goes to MSFS, real flying and MSFS is different

Anyhow, I think that MSFS makes a great procedural training tool to equip you with the necessary knowledge to take on real flying. And yes I do think that in an emergency, a hardcore simmer is able to regain control of the aircraft. It may not be a perfect landing, but at least the aircraft will not just come crashing down from up above.

niceSkyTue, 06 Jan 2015 08:51:25 GMT

just like me with my 1000's hours drive with my own car, if some times should drive with anybodys car that i never driven b4, i should learn and "feel it" first for a couple hours to get used to..

so its more easy for me to start it than anybody who never drive at all b4

i thoughts from simulator to real, its needed a real practice to get its

anyway i should be died now and dozen of plane destroyed if sims just like a real lol

GregSun, 11 Jan 2015 04:14:20 GMT

As it relates to flight sim vs the real thing, anything that assist with gaining the muscle memory as a flight sim does, the fimiliararty with the controls, flight planning, pre flight procedure and so forth can only help and curve actual training time in in real plane.

Not just flight sims, but also RC piloting can assist with getting a good understanding of the principles of flight.

By no means am I saying that RC and sims will fully prepaid you, but I do feel that it would count and make a difference.

get your flight experience the best way that you can!

David WrightFri, 27 Mar 2015 15:23:50 GMT

Interesting subject. To add my two penneth here as well as an avid flight simmer using FSX, of course no one can expect to just jump into the cockpit of a 737 and be able to land the thing competently 'on their own' going by my experiences PMDG 737 NGX is a very complex aircraft from cold and dark start up and it is not easy to fly either , so using this aircraft within FSX does give an element to reality as it is extremely detailed and all the knobs , gauges work as you would find in the real 737.

Now I have flown a 757-200 at Heathrow BA training school on their full scale simulators (the ones they use to train their own pilots) and I took off and flew a circuit from runway 27L all around London and landed on a visual approach with me flying the plane and using rudder whilst the flight instructor was controlling flaps, engines, etc. : I did about eight landings in all weathers even crosswind and finally an autoland , no crashes on any landings , even used the nose wheel to taxi to the gate and I personally think that FSX gave me the understanding of not being overawed by all the gauges , buttons etc.: I also recently went up in a Cessna 152 with an instructor and taxied , took off all by myself , with the instructor just handling the radio to ATC , i was flying the plane for the majority of the 1 hour flight , I even managed to drop down to traffic pattern altitude for landing at Biggin hill , lined up on approach and managed to get the aircraft configured for landing.suffice to say , the landing bit on a breezy day was a bit of an eye opener and I did manage to get the flare wrong and could not concentrate on the yoke and throttle so needed help ......anyway we got down safely , only that i was flaring too early but the instructor corrected that .....anyway the point I am making is that Fight simulators don't give you the aircraft effects , g forces etc but in my opinion made both of those flights , one a Professional simulator , the other real life flight a much more enjoyable and knowledgeable experience and with such , would have made both those flights virtully impossible to do what I was able to summary , Flight simming is no way comparable with real flight , but in my view a very valuable tool to use if one is to get their PPL or progress further

JoeMon, 30 Mar 2015 04:41:55 GMT

Wow.. Lots of ignorant comments here, specially from pilots who think they're "special" and nobody can do what they do... Newsflash, dumbasses: you're NOT special, anyone can do what you do if they set their mind to it, and while sims do not replicate a lot of real world items, thye replicate a fair amount of them so you can prepare for the real thing. Endless stories of people who have done it. So no, just because you never got behind a computer and tried it does not mean these are not useful tools and "games" as you describe. Guess you still think ypu're in the 50's when flying was all mysterious,,, welcome to the 21st century, regular joes..

Barry LeeThu, 17 Sep 2015 12:34:34 GMT

Flight sims are indeed adequate training for the real thing. I am a military drone pilot and our flight school would often let "manned" pilots cross over into our field. Its common knowledge and the data is out there, manned pilots have more flight incidents (crashes) almost 2x the rate of unmanned drone pilots.

When the drone pilots do their initial time and cross over into manned, their safety records are paramount. The reason being is you should always learn to fly by your instruments and trust your equipment. A common misconception with pilots is they say "sim can't duplicate inertia and g-force". Well, when you want to land ILS, I can promise you using your bodies senses is the wrong thing to do. TRUST YOUR EQUIPMENT!

The only thing I will say is if you are flying VFR then yes, nothing beats the real thing but these days IFR is where the future is heading. I've been on both sides of the coin, and more common than not, a pilot's greatest drawback has been their egos. Egoism is actually a test question and subject on the FAA exam for those of you who have a license.

Oh, and when I say manned pilots crashed more, I'm referring to the manned pilots who tried to fly our military drone platforms. In case some people get confused.

MirandaMon, 30 Nov 2015 15:44:55 GMT

I read your article on can you learn to fly on a desktop computer. Well, 20 years ago I would say absolutely not. However, since that time computers have now become powerful enough to learn to fly. I spent years flying the Microsoft flight as well as X-Plane. I then went out and got to fly a Cessna 150. I convinced the instructor to let me fly.

Well, I taxied to the runway and positioned the airplane right on the center line and I then applied full power and used the right rudder pedal to compensate for the torque effect. When we reached takeoff speed, I gently pulled back until 1 half of a 10-degree nose up and trimmed as needed. I flew all around the town with no assistance. I then asked my instructor if I could try a stall, I reduced the power to idle and pulled back more and more.

Suddenly the stall warning came on. I immediately dropped the nose to below horizon level, applied full power and checked my airspeed and pulled use out of the stall. I then flew back to the airport and with my instructor's permission and landed just fine. My instructor asked me if I had taken lessons and said no. He then asked me how I learned to fly like that. He said none of his students would have been able to do what I did without at least 12 lessons. So it is absolutely possible to teach yourself.

Don't listen to those pilots who make fun of the simulator. They simply don't know what they are talking about.


noobsFri, 18 Dec 2015 01:04:31 GMT

FSX + PMDG + VATSIM Now tell me it is a "just" a game, and you'll be an ass.

ArroganceTue, 29 Dec 2015 13:39:19 GMT

I've done professional training like the one in the video, funny thing is they use P3D (built on the FSX ESL) so clearly the physics are as close to realistic as possible, the only major difference in your home version is you have no sense of speed, even at 140 knots it feels very fast in the training sim.

NOT A SHORT MANTue, 15 Mar 2016 14:26:00 GMT

It was 1991 when I was told that I am too honest, without complexes, a real lover of aviation and that 90% of the people involved have a problem either with their height or with their dick. I thought it was just an exageration but in the business there are also many criminals involved with black-money laundering in flight training and various type ratings. So indeed, not only complexic arrogant anthropo-types ruin that otherwise beautiful working environment but also, individuals of the underground ! And I am not talking about those signs on London Metro.

VBSSun, 10 Apr 2016 12:37:24 GMT

According to me the real life flying is way more difficult than simulation due to different physical factors and mental factors .I am interested a lot in aviation and also I am a user of FSX .I flew various jets, helicopters ,airliners etc. but once with a real life experience I realized that its not that easy and requires tremendous amount of training and precision . FSX would help a person in real aircraft in ways like he would not be complete alien to instruments and gauges and also he would have some amount of flying feeling. But by expertizing in FSX you would not be able to fly a plane safely for that you have to have complete training and confidence and if you are lacking any of these components then you might end up in a grave.

Sebastien FMon, 09 May 2016 00:09:35 GMT

I've just discovered Flight Simulator recently. I can now manually approach and land a A380 on VFR and IFR. Does it make me a real pilot? Of course not. I've learned a lot of things about aviation and aeronautics since I play this game, so I'd say that Flight Simulation does not Prepare Pilots For Flying A Real Plane, but it gives the envy to learn how to fly a real plane for real.

Steve RyderMon, 27 Jun 2016 13:03:03 GMT

I beg to differ - what about proper study level aircraft available for P3D and FSX? Such products like PMDG's lineup are endorsed by Boeing!

MSTue, 12 Jul 2016 00:06:53 GMT

Having been a flight simulation enthusiast since FS2000 and currently learning how to fly in the real world, I think I can shed an informed opinion!

It all depends on how seriously you take flight simulation. If you just buy a copy of say, P3D or FSX and load it on any computer, you're far from reality. If you're willing to invest a little more on purchasing detailed aircraft and scenery addons, you won't be too far off.

For IFR flight on VATSIM on a detailed aircraft such as Aerosoft's A320, with airport scenery and with an addon that simulates real world weather, the sort of flight simulation experience gained is absolutely invaluable. You'll be doing a lot of what real airline pilots do, minus the formalities of following standard operating procedures of course.

For VFR flight however, in my own experience, flight simulation doesn't help to the same extent and may actually bring on bad habits. There is more emphasis on the physical feel of flying and feedback, maintaining a good lookout and being familiar with the local area around the aerodrome. Of these, none can be experienced from PC flight simulation.

ColcThu, 21 Jul 2016 03:25:25 GMT

My son learned how to fly a Bell 206 on a realistic flight sim on FSX ( not standard, but bought from Dodosim and loaded on to the FSX platform). He set up his own collective, and cyclic, and tweaked it a little to be more like an R-22, and his instructor was blown away about how he could hold the real R-22 in a rock solid hover, he wanted to let him fly solo after only a couple of times out. Grant you my son built his own collective (out of wood, a thick cardboard tube, and pulley system that he designed himself) and a cyclic (made out of legos, yes he really did make a cyclic out of legos and a game pad). I'm not making this up, he really learned on a computer, but he was determined that it would be as real as possible. Of course, there are some things you have to learn in the real air, but a lot can be learned on a realistic sim, a lot of them claim to be realistic, but most of them are not.

luisTue, 30 Aug 2016 04:06:36 GMT

the simulator trains you for flying and that's absolutly true. what everybody forgets is that before flying you have to study haaaard. anything concerning flight, for ex, the effect of angle of attack, speed, amount of flaps, etc...have to be studied carefully and conciously, not to say the behavior of different planes, that is, high wingers, low w, landing gears, etc. knowing that permts a high degree of flying skill, although you will do mistakes and will learn lil by lil and !without killing yourself! navigation goes so real with sims that it will match any expectancy and much easier and quicker than with any book (and there are plenty of wonderful books). so lets be theoretical first and then try skud and rudder. and....... remember: first things first!!!! go firmly but slow. that is, practice beggining with a cessna or j3, make transistions till u reach the jumbo. good flights

Keith CauseyFri, 16 Sep 2016 18:40:02 GMT

I think the answer to whether simulators can prepare one for flying the real thing is "absolutely"!! New F22 pilots are trained in simulators after which time they walk directly to, enter and fly the fighter with no instructor on board. "Nuff said".

JoeThu, 08 Jun 2017 05:19:22 GMT

Hi all, After reading this article I thought I’d put my 2 cents in. I’m a “Real” private pilot, SEL, MEL, Instrument and aircraft owner {172K Ralph Bolen Tailwheel conversion}. I’ve been flying FX for over ten years and I’m convinced of its value as a great tool for real flying. Many times I’ve noticed just how similar the flight characteristics of the FX 172 and my plane are. The best example I can give is after flying the Bell 206 in FX for about 10 hrs I was able to hover a {real} Schweizer 300 without being in a helicopter before. I’ll qualify this by saying I was sure to tell the pilot to watch the rotor RPM as sadly FX choppers have no provision for separate collective and throttle. I can’t express how it felt to see the pilot with his feet and hands off the controls shouting, “you got it, I can’t believe it”. FX can, not only simulate basic flight techniques, but is very useful for practicing instrument flight. This knowledge has meant the difference between life and death for many pilots including me. Most assuredly FX can’t teach you how to sideslip to a one wheel landing in a heavy crosswind but there is much it can teach you. My hat is off to all involved with FX and my opinion is anyone that can fly FX well has the “potential” to fly real aircraft.

A MILERSat, 21 Oct 2017 20:21:35 GMT

Just finished a two hour flight plan in the PAN AM 747-400 in Miami. I was surprised to see the size of the light deck , it was smaller than I imagined. There are many aspects of the operation that differed from my plane. One of the more popular modeled software I set up a checklist according to KLM Airline from push to take off, and the Sim check lists did not coincide at all . If you are lucky enough to do this, specify your plans and go for it., ARMCHAIR PILOT IS GREAT, AND I HAVE MANY HOURS SITTING IN IT, BUT THIS EXPERIENCE WAS FANTASTI


DumanganTue, 05 May 2020 08:53:12 GMT

I am using X-Plane 11 combined with a RealSimGear G1000 Suite while pursuing my GA License. I have over 20 hours in the real plane and 55+ hours in the X-Plane simulator. X-Plane is sold as a commercial simulator and approved for simulated flight instruction by the FAA if combined with the proper equipment and licensing. While not the same thing and lacking any gravitational forces, the simulator does build on the lessons from the classroom and cockpit.

My biggest hurdles were using the instrument controls and conversing with ATC while actually flying the plane. The G1000 is a complex navigation tool with lots of features for a new pilot to get lost in. There was just so much going on in the actual flight lessons that I felt a bit overwhelmed when approaching the airport to land. A busy airport with lots of other traffic, Center handing off to Approach and then to Tower for landing, other aircraft flying in and out of the pattern, and all the while trying to keep the focus on the procedures of flight.

Now I have the actual physical controls and through VatSim I am able to practice with ATC. I know that my future lessons in the real aircraft will not be impeded by any lack of familiarization with controls, procedures, or ATC verbiage.


patrickSun, 16 May 2021 20:30:55 GMT

I have liked this intellectual debate.  I'm a virtual pilot with 3000 landings in FSX and 98 landing performance in X-Plane and have not entered a real cockpit of a B737 or AIRBUS.  I will prove to you that I can save the plane and its occupants. The issue is how do you use the flight simulator device all computers can fly an aircraft without pilot manual input how do you say it can't teach a person to fly?

Jeff WeaverSun, 25 Sep 2022 11:33:28 GMT

I don’t care what anyone says. I flew MS Flight sim since I was 11 starting with FS 95. I learned a lot. I could do basic nav. Take off. Land. Aerobatics. By the time I was on FS 2004, I had realism set to max always.

Stress caused crashes. Etc. circa 2013 I took my first real lesson. Told my CFI about my experience. Literally, he made maybe a total of 5 corrective inputs that entire flight. Steering down the runway was the most difficult but I flew the plane … and landed it without virtually zero input on my first flight ever. So do flight simulators help? Yes.

I was soloing for 20 hours. I guess some do it sooner and some later. I could have done it at 15 or maybe less but I didn’t want to. I enjoyed the company of my CFI and while he basically didn’t touch the controls at all after a couple of hours of the flight... I liked him there for situational stuff,

Did the flight sim get my license? No. But it certainly helped. Everything you knew without formal training made more sense and the concepts … and flying skills… made sense quicker also. Basically, I didn’t do any ground school before soloing. Very little. I know it’s not normal to do it this way, but because I pretty much understood the rules of the road prior to my first lesson and only needed to “catch up” on the minutia, I read the book in a couple of days and we focused on flying.

So I say yes. I was able to take off, AND land. And fly for the entire flight. With my CFI doing basically nothing except making verbal corrections. Simulators do make you a better pilot if that’s all you have access to. It makes it much less stressful when you’re in the cockpit IRL, that’s for sure.

Jeff WeaverSun, 25 Sep 2022 11:58:17 GMT

I wanted to add a second comment to expand on the fact that sims do help.

Let me say this - in my experience, the sim prepped me for the real plane (and its limitations) and what’s interesting is real instruction made me a better sim pilot as well.

The sim is actually more difficult to fly. You lack situational awareness, it’s difficult to operate switches and buttons, etc. The real plane is more stressful to fly. You have your life, other traffic, sensory saturation, etc. The plane itself though is super simple to trim and fly straight and level whereas in the sim I feel you’re always fighting the trim - partly because you can’t feel the plane and must rely only on instruments and pictures, and partly because most of the time the controls are clunky and not consistent or easy like in a plane where you have the trim wheel, etc,

Lastly, I do have to say I also fly RC. And I learned to fly RC helis first when I was in Iraq… on a sim. And I never crashed a heli when I got the actual heli. And the same with RC planes (but I crashed a few planes because I fly more aggressively).

So in all. Flying sims first. Then RC. Then real planes. And now still flying all…. They all help your skills and feed into each other.

PS, my plan is to fly ultralight or PPG next. GA is boring. I like the freedom to do what I want in the air. Frequent changes in altitude. Direction. Etc.

In all, I don’t tell people I’m a 23-hour student pilot. Or RC pilot. Or a sim pilot, I have 27 years of flying experience, and every hour counts. Loggable. RC. And Sim. Follow your dreams. Flying is flying. Fly what you can. When you can. And have fun!!

Leave a comment