Inside the Flight Simulation Experience
Updated: Sep 16, 2019
It is kind of scary to imagine that until they gain experience, pilots are just some ordinary people who have never flown an airplane. How would you feel if you hear on your trip the Captain announcing: “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome on board, today is my first flight!”? Do not get fooled, it is a misconception that pilots come to their initial working day fresh and new. The truth is before they ever put their foot into the cockpit, they had spent countless hours not only in the classrooms but in fascinating flight simulators as well.
Flight simulators are machines that perfectly mimic the internal and external factors of the aircraft system. In the present day, these training tools are completely digitalized but the first attempts for creating mock-ups were quite elementary and exclusively based on mechanics. Examples of such devices date since the beginning of the 20th century and while they look pretty humoristic now, for their time they were a novelty.
Officially, the earliest flight simulator is the Link Trainer, produced by Edwin Link in the United States after World War I. Since then, simulators changed significantly and advanced motion and visual systems were added to their structures.
Today, with the increased demand for preparation of pilots and the accelerated growth of the aviation market, flight simulators are becoming a billion dollars industry worldwide. Moreover, it is no longer a field for commercial and military pilots only.
How about a short walkthrough of the common modern artificial airplanes types?
Full Flight Simulators
There is nothing above safety and the flight crew needs to be absolutely confident in what they are doing. For this reason, simulators have become extremely realistic in order to imitate the exact conditions of an actual flight which includes air density, turbulence, wind shear, clouds, etc.
Additionally, the cabin environment elements such as lights, temperature, and even humans should be also present. Putting all the pieces of the puzzle together brings enhanced quality and consistency to the training process.
Full flight simulators depend on the aircraft type but they also have to comply with IATA standards and certifications.
Flight Simulation Games
They are called video games but they are so professional and hi-tech that we could not leave them out. The most popular of the home flight simulation programs are meant to recreate military airplanes and helicopters but then there is the epic Microsoft Flight Simulator X ! This is a virtual reality phenomenon with precise navigation and Air Traffic Control features where you can choose from 18 types of aircraft and literally occupy the place of the Commander of a commercial airline if you like. The over 24,000 airports, the 38 cities, and the real-world weather reports are just extra perks.
Simulators for Entertainment
Apart from the games, there are other non-training flight simulators which you can rent for fun. Usually, they belong to aviation companies and are open to the general public at exhibition venues and events. They are similar in size to the regular full flight simulators but they do not offer the whole package because not every detail from the pilots education is so entertaining.
Typically, these machines used to be training flight simulators in the past but are not in operation anymore and are now available for enthusiastic amateurs or legit pilots who would like to test their skills.
Cabin Crew Simulators
Do not ever underestimate the cabin crew! They know the aircraft better than anyone and they are aware of most of the emergency social and evacuation scenarios in the world. Seriously.
Still, before they start flying, they also need to test the plane, open and close the doors, locate the vital safety equipment and, the most enjoyable of all, act. In fact, the acting part can be stressful for the flight attendants because they are put in intense overwhelming situations by their instructors who aim to develop their reactions and alertness. However, if you decide to witness any training as an audience, this is the one - you will feel like watching a movie.