Simulated Benefits

Yes, it's a simulator! A lot cheaper than a real Baron per hour and easier to set up for the exact conditions the instructor wants to expose you to.

Yes, it’s a simulator! A lot cheaper than a real Baron per hour and easier to set up for the exact conditions the instructor wants to expose you to.

Sure you can go take an intro flight and jump right into a succession of flying lessons. But, unless you were brought up in aviation or have an ability to process information in unfamiliar environments without any issues, flight training can be a stressful event. The 80% dropout rate of student pilots is due in part to the difference between dreams and reality. Movies and tv paint a false image of what flying is really like so if those are your inspiration, be advised that it will not be like the Snake scene in Iron Eagle.

Like anything else that has an aura of mystique around it, flying is not difficult. However the judgement and responsibility can very easily overwhelm those new to the industry. Imagine the difference between being able to throw a football 60 yards versus the ability to throw 60 yards with precision to a moving target with the noise from 50,000 fans in your ears.

Aviation training is structured in building blocks. Before moving from basic concepts and techniques, to more advanced ones, practice is paramount. Flying is an all-inclusive activity; not only does your brain have to remember procedures but your nervous system has to move the proper parts of your body at the right time. As you get better at each step, you’re gradually given more complex tasks.

Learning these techniques in an actual airplane is one way to do it, albeit very expensive. There is no pause button and the meter is running from the second you start the engine until it shuts down. If you are new to aviation, there’s also the terminology to contend with, which is by no stretch of the imagination a complete language unto itself. Getting frustrated is common.

By using ground based simulators, the stress and anxiety is eliminated and the student can focus on the topic at hand. Resetting the sim to practice an approach repeatedly can’t be done in a real airplane. A student can spend as much time as needed learning the purpose and location of gauges and instruments, especially handy if switching training aircraft types. Most importantly, the “I’m pretending to listen to the lesson but I really just want to get in the plane” tendencies are reduced since sims never leave the ground. Most importantly, situations that would be dangerous to practice in real aircraft can be done in total safety in order to demonstrate the consequences of incorrect actions.

Don’t worry, you’ll still fly real airplanes extensively. But in order to learn how to operate them in an efficient manner, spend some time in the simulator. They don’t replace aircraft but they teach faster and at a lower total cost. After all, the US Air Force, US Navy, NASA and every major airline worldwide can’t be wrong.


(Update: It’s been over two years since I wrote this and its still topical information. Take a look at the Flying Magazine Tip Of The Week for the 2nd week of February 2015!)

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