What goes up must come down – unless you are flying a flight simulator. Flying was more dangerous 50 years ago than it is today. Pilots can use a simulator to get practice in flying, familiarity with the instruments, and even simulate various wind conditions or haze. What are the advantages of using a simulator (aka a “sym”) and what are the disadvantages?
The first flight simulator was invented in 1927 by a guy named Frank Link. Since then planes and flight simulators have advanced in leaps and bounds, the reasons for using one have not changed. Here are some good reasons to take advantage of flight simulation:
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Modern flight simulators help pilots to learn both basic and many advanced skills. Student pilots use flight “sims” to enhance their flying lesson experience, but experienced pilots can benefit from simulation training, too. Today’s modern flight simulators now can help accumulate hours toward a license or to keep proficient and current to augment the active hours in an airplane. There are many things that can be done in a sim that are just as valuable as flying in a real aircraft.
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Stay proficient / Efficiency
Pilots must maintain proficiency to become and stay a great pilot. Maintaining a high levels of proficiency will reduce safety risks, and strengthen your skills. Flight simulators provide a cost-effective way for pilots to practice actual flight much more efficiently and at a lower cost. Also, when practicing in a real airplane, there is some inefficiency due to time taxiing and waiting for takeoffs, or in holding in a pattern waiting to land. Simulators start with a takeoff in the first 10-15 seconds. So, a sim can mean 55 minutes of actual active “flying” per hour while a real plane may mean only 35-45 minutes per hour.
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Practicing radio communications
Radio communications can be intimidating for student pilots, they may sometimes struggle to keep up with the fast pace of ATC communication. It can sometimes sound like gibberish. ATC controllers are to aviation what a doctor’s handwriting is to medicine – hard to decipher sometimes. But, using a simulator, the instructor can give you Air Traffic Control responses and stop to explain if anything is not too clear. Simulators have options available to help pilots practice both radio technique and mastering the ATC communication skills needed for safe flying.
Improve navigation skills
Simulation can also help pilots improve their VFR (visual flight rules) and IFR (instrument flight rules) navigation skills. If you’re planning a cross-country trip or flying to an unfamiliar airport, you can use a simulator to practice flying the route ahead of time. Simulators can also make it easier to practice instrument procedures using onboard navigational devices and equipment that are similar or identical to actual airplanes.
In a flight simulator, you can set up a flight plan, use both auto-pilot and manual controls to fly the plan, do diversions to an alternate airport to simulate emergencies, and otherwise “stay in the cockpit” without having to find a rental airplane to keep your hours up.
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Less risk – More Safety
Flying is safe, particularly when flying with an instructor where the frequency of accidents is nearly zero. But, a significant benefit of using flight sims is the ability to practice handling landings, takeoffs, maneuvers, in-flight emergencies and varied situations without the threat of any true danger. In a simulated flight, you have the freedom to make mistakes that might be much more difficult in the “real world.”
At Leopard, we always say, “You learn more from your mistakes than your successes.” But, that doesn’t mean to incur mistakes on purpose. Using simulators to practice identifying risk and danger areas will help you learn how to avoid danger in the first place. Flight simulation is a valuable way to practice dealing with emergencies in a low-stress and safe environment.
Whether it’s used to learn, to maintain proficiency or practice emergencies, flight simulation is a powerful tool for pilots of all experience levels. Best of all, simulation training can be fun! On days when you can’t get into the air, flight simulation is an effective and affordable way to sharpen your skills, enhance safety, and enjoy flying without ever leaving the ground.
If you have any questions about learning how to fly or obtaining certifications, reach out to us and we will do our best to help you.