Is Flight Simulator useful to real world pilots?

Yes! Microsoft has published a page devoted to explaining exactly how and why Flight Simulator (namely FSX) can be very useful for real-world pilots. Have a look here: Information for Real World Pilots. Bruce Williams, a former member of the development team that brings you Flight Simulator, now a full-time flying instructor, has written an article backing up the validity of Flight Simulator being used as a training aid. Bruce has even gone as far as writing a book on this topic.

The hardest thing I tend to encounter is someone who is a real-world pilot taking me seriously as a flight simulator developer. I’ve been in the flight simulation arena for quite a few years, and believe me – the technology in FSX may not be FAA-certifiyable for logging hours, but they’re not far off the mark!

As Av-Gas prices continue to rise, I hope that many of you who are skeptical give another look at PC desktop simulation as a very economical way to enjoy aviation in another means. There are already thousands around the world who enjoy it – there’s always room for many more!



Filed under Flight Simulator

5 responses to “Is Flight Simulator useful to real world pilots?

  1. BRUCE

    Thanks for the mention of my book. I\’d like to emphasize one key point suggested by your post, viz., "…the technology in FSX may not be FAA-certifiyable (sic) for logging hours, but they\’re not far off the mark!"The question of FAA approval of Microsoft Flight Simulator (and other PC-based simulations) comes up all the time.

    But as I explain in
    detail in my new book,
    the FAA doesn\’t approve flight simulation software.
    It approves flight training devices
    (FTDs) and simulators, devices that
    include software and displays, controls,
    and other features. (Almost all of the
    requirements for approval of FTDs focus on the displays and physical controls,
    not the flight modeling. Many levels of FTD require only a generic flight
    model, which may be based on fictitious data; a Level 4 FTD doesn\’t require any
    type of flight model.) Microsoft Flight Simulator meets the requirements for use in an FTD, but it can\’t be "approved" separately by the FAA.


    That said, Microsoft Flight Simulator, X-Plane, and other products have been included
    in approved FTDs, both in the U.S. and in other countries. Note, however, that you can log simulated time spent "flying"
    those devices only when they are used under the direct supervision of an
    instructor  [see, e.g., FAR 61.519(g)(4)].

    It\’s interesting
    that the topic of FAA approval of Flight Simulator pops up as often as, say,
    questions about frame rates. But no one doubts the utility and value of many
    training aids, such as GPS simulations, online courses, and DVDs, none of which
    are "FAA approved" (with the exception of some courses that may be
    used to meet requirements for the pilot proficiency program or the flight
    instructor renewal process).


    The experiences of
    many individuals and organizations over the years demonstrate that such aids,
    including Flight Simulator, can make training or proficiency flying more
    efficient and less costly, even if time spent using the tools doesn\’t count toward
    the minimum logged flight or simulator time required for a certificate, rating,
    or currency. As I often say, "It\’s about learning, not logging."

    Note that the FAA
    has just released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for an update to Part 61 of
    the FARs, which governs pilot certification and training. The proposed rules,
    which must go through an extensive review and comment period, would allow the
    wider use of PC-based training devices in initial training and proficiency
    sessions. But all such use would still have to be under the direct supervision
    of an instructor and "flown" on an approved training device. Again, a
    typical home setup with PC-based simulation software such as Microsoft Flight Simulator does not meet the
    requirements for approval as an flight training device.



  2. Owen

    Hi Bruce,I need to pay more attention!  I missed that you had commented for a whole week!  I appreciate your taking a few moments to add some clarification to my mis-speaking regarding MS FS with regards to involvement in flight training.  Your expertise in this arena is certainly appreciated!Best,Owen

  3. 650 flight sim hours

    Hi, I have Flight Simulator X, and think that it is amazingly realistic. In the airplane realm. Unfortunately it isn’t in the helicopter realm. I know this because I have flown a helicopter, I’m a student helicopter pilot. I have 5 helicopter hours, and I do great at flying it because of my other flight sim called flight-gear. This one isn’t good in airplanes but it’s great in helicopter and thats where I learned to fly helicopters. The airplanes in FSX are very very realistic and so are the radio communications and navigational aids. FSX is good in everything except the helicopters. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. I have over 650 flight simulator hours. So basically if you want to be a helicopter pilot get flight-gear and if you want to be a fixed wing pilot and learn radio communications and navigation and everything else get FSX. Both are very good programs and have come a long way. I do have one last thing to say and thats that X-plane is a bad simulator, in fact I would go so far as to say that its a game, not a simulator. So please get FSX or Flight-Gear, I would strongly suggest getting both. Remember I have over 650 flight simulator hours and practical hours, so please trust my word.

  4. 650 flight sim hours

    Hi its me, again, I just wanted to go into some detail about why FSX helicopters are unrealistic. The reason is because their flight modeling system is based on forward flight like a real world airplane, however a helicopters is not, obviously, it is based on a rotating wing. Flight Gear uses a system that is based on instability like a real rotary craft is. Although FSX uses a system that is stable, like a real world fixed wing aircraft. Both systems use a text file format that allow for very very small detail without losing frame rates. X-plane uses a visual flight modeling system, this is very bad for simulation because you cant get the finest detail, such a friction drag because of small indents in the fuselage that would cause drag or any thing else that is important for simulating flight. There are many other reasons that X-plane is a bad simulator. The helicopters in X-plane are very very very very bad for learning how to fly. Also, X-plane is bad because of its cockpits, almost all of them are unrealistic. I got X-plane and it was a huge let down, please don’t get it, it is so not worth the money, in fact they should pay me to have it. If the scenery was good then maybe I could understand wanting to get it, but the scenery is horrible. Note: FSX does need a very good computer, this you will not find at a store. You need to buy the parts yourself and find some one who will put it together for you. If you put it on a low grade computer it will not be able to run FSX. It will probably cost you about $600 dollars, but its worth it if your serious about learning to fly. Flight Gear is a free program that you can find at In FSX you will have to turn up the realism settings if you want to fly realistically. Go above the recommended requirements for FSX.

  5. 650 flight sim hours

    One last thing, please read this. There is now a Dodosim 206 for FSX, I have it now and it is very very realistic, from start up procedures to flight dynamics and systems management. For example, your going through the start up right, the N1 hasn’t risen to 15% yet and you accidentally let go of the starter button. So you just instinctively push the starter button back in, but you notice you TOT jump into the yellow band. You don’t let go of the starter quick enough and before you know it you have an engine fire. Thats just one thing that makes it realistic, it also simulates vortex ring state , instability, loss off tail rotor thrust, torque induced yaw, and so much more. I have had it now for a couple of months and it is very good, it is well worth the money. Please check it out at and look at the dodosim 206 section. You can also download the pdf. manuel for free from their website to see if this is the helicopter for you, and I also now have 7 hours in a real R22 helicopter, one of the hardest helicopters to fly, and Bell 206 (Dodosim 206) is one of the easier helicopters to fly. This aircraft also provides a bunch of different Models, such as floats, high skid, low skid each with choice of having doors or no doors. It also has a utility model witch only has a High skid configuration and wire strike kit. As I said before check it out at

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