Flight Simulator Co-Pilot

by Charles Gulick


This book goes beyond my previous two, in describing specific techniques for flying the Cessna (Microsoft) and Piper (SubLogic) flight simulators created by program designer Bruce Artwick and his team at SubLogic Corporation. Many readers of 40 Great … and 40 More Great Flight Simulator Adventures will find here a more comprehensive, wider ranging, and more explicit methodology, and a few instructions that are slightly at odds with those in the earlier books. These differences reflect my own experience over many hundreds of hours of flying these aircraft, during which I have worked to refine the techniques described, searching always for more consistent and precise control and more realistic inflight performance.

In simulator flying, as in any endeavor we undertake—from sailing a boat to skiing to writing a poem to playing chess—excellence is the driver, the motivating force. There is genuine satisfaction in flying these computer-screen airplanes well, and the more we fly them the more believable we find them to be. The flight simulators have erroneously been called “games.” They are not games. They are what they say they are: simulations. And to my mind, they are the most advanced simulations offered to microcomputerists today. They challenge us from the moment we start them up until the moment we shut them down. Enhanced by our ability to imagine, their monotonous stretches of green and blue become the green of real earth and the blue of true sky. The wings that bear us aloft have actual lift, and the runways are as alluring and challenging as they are in the real world.

If we set time to a minute or so after dawn in the Editor, then exit to fly, it becomes early morning out there even though the scene is no different from noon. All we have to do is fantasize a little, and we can smell the morning freshness. We can see the dew on that too-green grass. We can sense that the sun is somewhat new, even in that absolute and all-too-flawless blue.

In simulator flight, as in actual flight, there can be moments that are hypnotic in their sense of suspension, somehow, in another dimension, not quite related to time nor quite a part of space. They are moments, in the truest sense, apart. Real and unreal change places, and we are transported. There are some scenes at dusk, in the simulated Seattle for instance, that I wouldn't trade for genuine earth, by genuine water, under an actual evening sky. I have seen jewels on the ground down there, pinpoints of spurious gold specks which, placed just where they are and when they are, have a beauty and reality all their own. Too, the very sparseness of the simulation sometimes forces us to concentrate on essentials of a sort that we miss in reality, like a photograph mostly unfocused, or some of the silences in music.

I've been flying the simulator ever since it was there to fly, and I confess that I still approach an airport I've never seen before with intense excitement and elation. Usually, I know, it will look like fifty others. But sometimes, it won't. If it's near a city or a body of water or a mountain, it may be a thing of the rarest beauty, just the way it lies there on the rest of the geography, and just because I'm approaching it from this specific direction out of hundreds I might have selected, or by sheerest chance.

So come, let's fly together, and get good at it and believe together in the believability of what we're doing. I'll teach you all I know, and perhaps—doing that—show you some of what I see.

Charles Gulick
Lake Park, Florida
August, 1986

Table of Contents | Previous Chapter | Next Chapter