Is Microsoft Flight Simulator a good learning tool?

NYCDooDahMan

New Member
I put this question out there to the experts.
I have the newest version of MS Flight Simulator which happens to be a mind blowing program. Either way, I was wondering if, as a student is the simulator a good aid for learning to fly certain aircraft. I mean, will using the Cessna 172 sim actually help me gain understanding and help me learn better? Needless to say the B737 sim is extremely complex in the program, so my other question is the sim a reliable portrayal of the cockpits of these planes. Any help is most appreciated.
 

BobDDuck

Island Bus Driver
I have been playing MSFS since it's early days (version 3 I think) and I always enjoyed flying my desktop. However, I started flying for real last month and have found it to be an entierly different experience.

The biggest difference to me was in the feel of the controls. First of all, I usally had auto rudder enabled in FS and it took me some time to adjust to the constant need to move my feet on the rudder. On a similar note, drive with one's feet (ie taxiing with by rudder link) is MUCH different then taxiing in FS by using a twist joystick.

The second really big control difference to me was the fact that in FS I used a joystick with no feedback and in real life a 172 has a control wheel and there is a huge amount of feed back. For example, when practicing a stall in FS, you simply cut the power and pull back on the stick. In the real world you cut power, and then you really have to pull back and hold it. A joystick only goes back an inch at most. However, in real life it can be almost a foot that you have to pull back.

Another thing I had trouble adjusting to was the whole visualization of the outside world. When flying VFR it is much more practical (and safer) to spend most of your time looking outside and keeping the aircraft aligned with the horizon or some other point. In FS, due to the complexity of changeing your point of view, it becomes normal to rely on your instruments and then to look outside to verify that they are correct.

As to the realism of the panel. That is one place where I found FS to be useful. Despite the fact that the layout was slightly different, I already knew what most things were and I was not overwhelmed by the number of gauges and dials and such (alright all you heavy metal people, laugh if you want, but a 172 can be a scary place if you are just getting started.)

Sorry this turned into a bit of a novel. Hope it was helpful.

Ethan
 

rausda27

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]
I was wondering if, as a student is the simulator a good aid for learning to fly certain aircraft.

[/ QUOTE ]

The flight Dynamics in the PC flight sims are waayyy off, and unless you have a full setup with a yoke and rudder pedals I would say it had much training value and even with full controls its value a sa training aid would be minimal. I did try using it during my instrument course and found that it was too difficult to tune frequencies and tune the OBS to be a valuable tool.

[ QUOTE ]
I mean, will using the Cessna 172 sim actually help me gain understanding and help me learn better?

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Probably not. Unless like stated above by the other poster, you just want to see where the guages are or if you are practicing instrument procedures...

[ QUOTE ]
Needless to say the B737 sim is extremely complex in the program, so my other question is the sim a reliable portrayal of the cockpits of these planes. Any help is most appreciated.

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Let me put it this way..my nephew can start up a 777, taxi it and fly a full IFR trans continental flight by himslef with absolutley zero flight training..what would you say the chances of him being able to do that in a real airplane?
 

RiddlePilot

New Member
I have to agree that flightsim will not help you learn to fly a certain aircraft. Flight dynamics and complexity are terribly different. That said, I do believe that flightsim can help with procedural items. The best example of this is during instrument training. Used properly, flightsim can help keep your scan from collecting dust, as well as allow you to shoot holds and instrument approaches with surprising realism.

Just don't form any bad habits from using it!
 

EatSleepFly

Well-Known Member
I've never had a student that was an ace from Flight Sim. Usually its more of a hinderance, especially with private pilot training (STOP LOOKING AT THE #$@#$ INSTRUMENTS!!!!!)...

Though its probably not as "fun", your time would be better spent reading books and such that you will encounter as you go through training. That is how you will get ahead- not flying a game. No offense.
 

Jonnyb9040

New Member
I believe flight sim helps with instrument procedures such as holding patterns, and tracking to an NDB or VOR. Other than that it is my only way to fly a military aircraft.
 

E_Dawg

Moderator
I'll be the outsider, but I think FS is a very valuable training tool for all pilots.

It helps you become famaliar with basic controls, flight dynamics, cross country procedures (including navigation!), airport layouts and lights, flight instruments, etc. And that's just for the VFR guy; for the IFR people FS offers much more.

Just realize that it IS a game, and you probably will form a tendency to stare at the instruments that MUST be overcome as soon as you start flying for real.
 

EatSleepFly

Well-Known Member
Just you wait till you get your first student who comes in exclaiming that he can teach you something about ATC communications since he teaches it for a virtual airline...

Or when you have to repeatedly hear: "But in Microsoft Flight Sim...."


I agree that its useful for some instrument stuff, but not much more than that, IMO. As an instructor, it seems that I always spend more time saying, "well, this isn't MSFS," than I do saying, "wow, MSFS has taught you well!"

 

johnbail

New Member
[ QUOTE ]
Just you wait till you get your first student who comes in exclaiming that he can teach you something about ATC communications since he teaches it for a virtual airline...

Or when you have to repeatedly hear: "But in Microsoft Flight Sim...."


I agree that its useful for some instrument stuff, but not much more than that, IMO. As an instructor, it seems that I always spend more time saying, "well, this isn't MSFS," than I do saying, "wow, MSFS has taught you well!"



[/ QUOTE ]

Just tell them to reboot the plane after the crash
 

DakotaBlue

New Member
i used it during my instrument training to figure out what the hell was going on...i would use the 172 nd let the autopilot fly while i tune radios, tracked radials and bearings and such....as to learning procedures its good for the most part...as to learning how to fly a plane it sucks.
 

bluelake

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]
I did try using it during my instrument course and found that it was too difficult to tune frequencies and tune the OBS to be a valuable tool.

[/ QUOTE ]

I agree. BUUUUUUUUUUT, I decided that the difficulty in using the mouse to click and change freqs and VOR's was at least equal to how hard it can be in flight when its bumpy in the clouds.

I wholly stand by MSFS for IFR training (ya usually gotta turn down the pitch sensitivity on the 172).

For VFR, I would discourage its use for things like landings.. but based in its excellent terrain model, using to visually get the feel of that FIRST student XC solo, I say USE IT.
 

Sprint100

Well-Known Member
For theory/book stuff it is great.
Actual flying, it is just entertainment, not a training aide at all.
 

mtsu_av8er

Well-Known Member
I don't know....

I know I've said it before, but I think that it definately has some advantages. When I was doing my private training, I spent a ton of time using MSFS (this was back in the day, on FS98, then later 2000...
) to practice things that I just couldn't practice economically in the aircraft. It's no substitute for the aircraft, but for learning to use navigational aids, it can't be beat.

It's also pretty cool to learn about the relationship between the performance/attitude of the aircraft, and the indications that you'll see on the instruments. As long as you don't become too focused on staring at the instruments, you can really gain alot from the FS.
 

Ecl!pse

Well-Known Member
ive got the yoke and rudder pedals, and i like them a lot.....i think it simulates real life more than the joystick/keyboard, but then again, it is a video game...once i begin lessons, i'll keep you all informed, and give ya a heads up if their a go or no-go!
 

PaulRix

Well-Known Member
As a tool for getting to know the feel of an aircraft, MSFS is not much help.. but as mentioned in several posts above it is a good training aid for instrumnet flying and radio navigation principles. I found it very useful during the initial stages of my instrument training. I also found it useful on the cross country phase of my private pilot training. The scenery is not perfect, but it is not bad either. I 'flew' all of my cross country flights on the simulator first. The default scenery has the major roads, towns, rivers and lakes represented. The airports tend to stand out a little better on the sim so you can see them from further out than you usually would in real life, but that can be a teaching aid in itself as it lets you know roughly where to look for that elusive field when you are getting close to your destination. Also the runway and taxiway layouts are pretty good in the sim and they will help you get orientated when you see the airport from the air in real life. As you gain experience, the benifit of practicing the flights will probably dwindle though.

Just my opinion, I am not a flight instructor but I can say that MSFS has been a good training tool for me personally. Your milage may vary as they say
.
 

Derg

Cap, Roci
Staff member
MSFS is a lot of fun and can be a learning tool, but when it comes to simulating actual flight dynamics, it's not all that great.

But for instrument training where it's more procedural and less about the actual control sensations of flying an aircraft, it's not all that bad.
 

flyguy

Well-Known Member
It can be valuable for practicing instrument procedures. I haven't started on my instrument rating yet so I can't testify how good it is for instrument stuff, but I can tell you that unusual attitudes under the hood were very easy for me.

I actually had a few bad habbits becasue of MSFS, such as not looking outside enough, and learning to land was a bit of a challenge because I was used to doing it the way I had mastered it in MSFS.

For VFR stuff however I always thought it was completely usless. When I started my private I decided not fo fly my sim anymore until I started instrument training because of the bad habbits it had formed. But, my instructor suggested I use it to fly a cross country we were planning. Two things happened that made me very glad I had done it. First off, I learned that the crusing altitude I had chosen would have put us into a mountain. I didn't look carefully enough at my chart when I was doing my flight plan, but I sure was glad I discovered that in the sim and not in real life. Then second was that ATC gave me a heading to vector me around some 737s that put me way off of my planned course. But even though I was off course I was familiar with where I was, and was able to improvise a new heading to get me back on course. I was extreemely surprised how familiar I was with the lay of the land having never actually been there. I had no idea the terrain matched that closley with what was there. But it worked, and I found my checkpoints via my imporvised course with no problems.
 
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