More Training for Computer Fighter Pilots
by Richard G. Sheffield
If you've ever seen expert pilots perform aerobatic routines at an air show, the thought of flying these maneuvers yourself may seem a bit overwhelming. It need not be. With computer simulations you can fly any routine as well as the experts -- maybe even better. The next time you see the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds, take note of their routine. You'll quickly recognize that the most complex shows are made up of a number of simple maneuvers skillfully laced together.
The purpose of this chapter is to teach the basic maneuvers. These maneuvers are the building blocks for more complicated tricks. When you perform a number of these maneuvers back-to-back you have the makings of an air show routine.
It's important that you take the time to master these basic flight patterns. Make sure you can perform each maneuver smoothly with a controlled entry and exit, especially the exit. Once you master these maneuvers you can begin to put them together in a sequence. But you won't be able to make the transitions from one trick to the next unless your exit from each maneuver is controlled. If you don't have control coming out of a trick, you won't be able enter the next maneuver with your wings level and the nose pointed in the right direction.
When learning these maneuvers give yourself plenty of altitude at first. Having to reboot after a crash is frustrating while it slows the learning process. Also, try to practice with landmarks in mind so you can perform your maneuvers in the right direction and over the correct spot on the ground. Remember, you'll be performing for an imaginary audience on the ground. Stay close by so they can see you.
As mentioned, each simulation is different, so take note during your practice of how your plane reacts in each maneuver.
- How much altitude do you lose?
- How much do you have to anticipate to get the wings to stop level?
- How much speed do you loose, or gain?
- Do you come close to stall speed?
- How much does the plane change course during a roll?
You need to have an intuitive feel for the aircraft. You don't have all the sensory inputs that a pilot has, such as forces and aircraft vibrations, so you must pay close attention to the instruments during the early phase of aerobatic training. Several of the simulations offer a feature that allows you to turn off some of the ground scenery and increase the animation speed. If the game you're using offers this feature, by all means use it when performing aerobatics. Your plane will react much faster to your control inputs. This will make your maneuvers smoother and more precise.
Try to fight the urge to move quickly to the more flashy and complicated maneuvers. Taking the time to master basic skills will pay dividends down the road.
The Basic Aerobatic Maneuvers
Each of the maneuvers described below has an accompanying illustration; the numbers in parentheses refer to the numbers in the drawing; each number indicates an action to be taken during the maneuver.
When you see the expression apply full forward stick or give some right stick, this means to push the joystick in the direction indicated with the intensity indicated. This is not common aeronautic parlance, but it's useful to have a short-hand expression because flight simulators are joystick-intensive; using more elegant language to describe joystick movement would add to the bulk of descriptions without making them clearer.