Flight simulators play a key role in pilot training, but there are a few key things to know and look for. If you’re looking to begin your aviation career, or you are well-progressed into an aviation career, you should be looking at how flight simulators can expand on your experience and knowledge. Here, we’ll cover how flight simulators can help you advance in your aviation training and what you should know about them.
How can a flight simulator help me as a pilot?
Great question. There are a number of flight simulator benefits that we can talk about here:
1. Cost Savings
Flight simulators and synthetic trainers can be very cost-effective for aviation training. Given you won’t have to run a single or multi-engine setup in real life, the overheads for a flight simulator are much lower, and therefore the rate per hour is normally much cheaper. If you’re undertaking multi-engine training on a simulator, the cost savings per hour increase even more than in a single-engine setup.
Flight simulators provide a safe environment for pilots to practice emergency procedures and manoeuvres without the risk of injury or aircraft damage. This allows you to gain experience and confidence in a controlled environment.
Flight simulators provide you with the ability to repeat specific exercises until you’re confident and comprehensive. This saves a lot of time compared to practice in an actual aircraft.
4. Experience Customisation
You can control the weather and tolerances in many flight simulators. This can be suitable for basic examples, light crosswind landing practice, or more challenging exercises such as instrument rating training.
5. Accruing Hours
You can accrue hours for navigation endorsement renewal for instrument training, instrument ground time training or instrument approach recency.
If there’s a bad-weather day during your training, a flight simulator can mean you can still fly. You can try to work with your instructor to schedule cockpit and simulator hours, but it will depend on what you’re up to with your training. Still, a flight simulator day is more progress and fun than a non-flying day!
7. Personal Development
If you’re experiencing some nausea or motion sickness in the cockpit, flight simulators can help some people to adjust. Practice on a flight simulator can help you become familiar with the controls and inputs, which can help you relax and focus in a real cockpit until your body learns to adjust.
If you’ve had a break from aviation, flight simulators are a great assistant to redevelop general familiarisation and cockpit recency.
9. Currency and Pilot Maintenance
If you’re looking to practice and rehearse flight and control procedures– regardless of your experience – flight simulators can be one of the most cost-effective methods to increase your hours.
What are some common flight simulators?
There are a number of flight simulators offered by aviation schools today, but here we’ll discuss only four:
TRC472 - This trainer is a full cockpit setup, and can be used for RPL, PPL, CPL, PIFR and IPC training. The TRC 472 flight simulator is so realistic that you will actually think you are sitting in the cockpit of a Cessna 172 Skyhawk.
Every detail is precisely reproduced to exact dimensions, including the doors, windshield, seats and Garmin G1000 glass cockpit panel, creating the most realistic representation of the actual aircraft as possible.
Alsim AL42 - This setup can be used for RPL, PPL, CPL< MECIR, Private IFR, IPC, and Instrument Rating Training Endorsement. The Alsim AL42 is a hi-tech super-realistic flight simulator. It directly replicates the cockpit and controls of the Diamond DA42 twin-engine aircraft.
The AL42 complies with Multi-Engine Command Instrument Rating (MECIR) requirements. It enables students to become familiar with the aircraft behaviour patterns, procedures and systems whilst still on the ground.
Boeing 737-800 - This setup is perfect for airline interview preparation and training. Flight Experience Melbourne uses state-of-the-art, professional flight simulators based on the Boeing 737-800 airliner. It includes high-fidelity, real-size cockpits with accurate and fully-functional aircraft controls, instrumentation and systems.
Certified and endorsed by Boeing itself, the simulators are used worldwide for pilot training and provide a fully immersive experience.
X-Plane 11 Flight Simulator - The latest in-flight training technology, the X-Plane 11 triple-screen Flight Simulator has realistic controls and instrumentation coupled with accurate aircraft performance, making this simulator a valuable training resource. Save time and money by perfecting your skills in a range of scenarios before performing them in a real aircraft.
Certified and endorsed by Boeing itself, the simulators are used worldwide for pilot training and include Virtual Fly's TQ6 PLUS throttle controls with reverse, feather and cutoff functions and the Ruddo PLUS rudder pedals with pressure-sensitive differential brake controls. You can also utilise glass cockpit avionics, including the Garmin G5 instrument display and GNS430 navigational display from RealSim Gear.
Flight Simulators VS Approved Synthetic Trainers
Firstly, whilst most of us call it a flight simulator, the rules and regulations often refer to ‘synthetic trainers’ – these are not always the same thing. Under the rules, there are key differences: A synthetic flight trainer is a flight simulator. An Approved Synthetic Trainer is a ground training device other than a flight simulator that simulates or represents flight conditions, aircraft characteristics, and a cockpit environment in accordance with the specified standards and requirements.
Are flight simulators as good as the real thing?
They’re very close. The development of gaming software, virtual reality technology, and computer processing means that the maps, controls, and effects are very, very good. The standards for training compliance are also quite high in Australia, which means the benchmark for flight simulators and synthetic trainers is also high.
Is every flight simulator the same?
No, and you must ask questions about flight simulators at your flight school. Here are some of the key differences you’ll find between them.
It needs to be an approved simulator if you want to enter it in your pilot logbook. Whilst you can arguably undertake quality training on some unapproved simulators, they will not become an official record in your logbook or contribute to your piloting hours.
There are different categories of CASA approvals, which means that not all flight simulators are eligible for every training component. You can discuss this with your flight training school so that you can best utilise their flight simulator within your training.
Some simulators will have photorealistic screens and a 120-degree field of view with different countries, terrains, and capabilities. This also applies to what aircraft they can emulate, from a light sport aircraft through to commercial airliners, and also the range of equipment and instruments that they run.
Different simulators will run different technology. Some technologies are newer and more advanced, but some older technologies are still very applicable and current.
Some flight simulators will be closer to a computer setup at a desk, with flight controls. Newer and higher-grade simulators include higher-quality hardware, which can include motion motors that help you feel and experience more realistic effects of controls. For example, if you bank the aircraft to the left, the entire simulation station can provide movement and motion in response to your control inputs.
Where are the most beneficial hours for a pilot?
For every aviation course, requirement, or endorsement, there are minimum and maximum hours that can be completed on a flight simulator. This means that you cannot start on a flight simulator from scratch and become a pilot, as there are minimum requirements that must be met in the cockpit.
The most beneficial hours are usually where the largest financial savings can be made. For RPL, PPL, CPL, and ATPL courses, there are standards and minimum requirements for instrument time. That’s where you can save time and money.
For example, if you’re undertaking PPL training, you have up to 5 hours that can be completed in a flight simulator. You also have 2 hours in total for dual instrument time that can be completed in a flight simulator.
If you’re an RAAus pilot in training, flight simulators don’t currently play a significant role in the syllabus. That being said, the benefit of increasing your training experience is synonymous with any other licence or endorsement.
What are the different categories of flight simulators and training devices?
Category A synthetic trainers are the simplest setups, whereas Category B and C setups are more complex. This also means that Category B and C are approved for a broader range of training components. Here’s what each setup needs to include:
Category A synthetic trainers provide:
- Training in instrument flight procedures.
- Training in limited navigation aid procedures, orientation, and homing.
- With special requirements and training in visual flight procedures.
- A cockpit enclosure.
- Basic flight instrumentation.
- ADF or VOR.
- Aerodynamic simulation.
- Aircraft controls.
- Limited instructor facilities.
- A flight path display.
Category B synthetic trainers provide:
Additional training in instrument flight procedures
Training in instrument cross-country navigation
With special requirements, training in visual flight procedures
ADF, VOR, ILS and DME or GPS
Cockpit enclosure (not required for logging recent experience)
Full instrumentation and controls
Realistic aerodynamic simulation and characteristics
Full instructor facilities (not required for logging recent experience)
Flight path display.
Category C synthetic trainers provide a Categorised B standard synthetic trainer but a simulation of a specific aircraft type. There are a number of requirements they must meet, under CASA’s standards, to comply with this categorisation.
Operational Standards and Requirements
CASA is responsible for overseeing the categorisation and use of flight simulators in aviation training. You can read all about their requirements here. You must ask questions at your flight school before undertaking flight simulation training. This will help ensure you have a clear understanding and how it can best enhance your training experience.
About the Creator
He writes in several genres. Kevin and his wife, Julia, to whom he dedicates all of his published works, and their dog, Buddy, live in Melbourne, Australia. A regular contributor to New Path Web Morning Edition.