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Recollections from Back-in-the-Day

By turbinepilot ·
My first encounter with a flight sim was 1976. The device was roughly 24" square and 18" high and sat on top of a desk. The panel represented a generic single-engined airplane with a standard "T" instrument config. There was no visual reference, flight was strictly by instrument.

The next machine we purchased for the local flight school was large enough to sit inside. It has a glass slide mounted in front of a projector lens in order to display the horizon with low quality clouds and ground. As the student manipulated the controls the glass slide would tip, rise or turn and the projected image would give some semblence of what real flight visuals would be. That old beast was programmed with punched paper tape (and no take-up spool).

After Intel came out with the 80386 processor the computer game companies could finally create a decent flight sim for the personal computer. These sims are a fantastic advance in flight training. Now everybody from novice pilot to seasoned pro can go through routine (and not so routine) flight procedures from the safety and comfort of their favorite chair.

But it seems that every technological advance brings with it some type of drawback. As a flight instructor I have seen a fair share of students who have played with the various flight sims then decided to get their real pilots license. Many of these students have developed unsafe cockpit procedures as a result of their earlier virtual flying adventures. It sometimes takes considerable retraining from a flight instructor to correct the bad habits.

For all the gee-whiz of today's flight sims they cannot, in my opinion, simulate flight conditions realistically enough to be of real benefit in learning takeoffs and landings. But at any altitude greater than 50 feet these sims are the best teaching tool ever invented.

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