Learning to Fly with Flight Simulator

by John Rafferty

Basic Flight Training

Departure, En Route, and Arrival Procedures

New York/Kennedy International to Bridgeport

The flight simulator is easiest to fly—and you'll find it most enjoyable to fly—when you fly it in an authentic way. This is an airplane simulation, not an arcade game, so try to remember that it doesn't require any muscle.

Instead, learn to fly it as an airline captain would: Decide what you want the airplane to do; convey those instructions with just your fingertips; and then relax and let the airplane do the work. Use your head, not your muscles.

Handled properly, the simulator airplane will respond with astonishing realism, and it will provide a surprisingly authentic experience of modern aviation. Just learn a few basic, realistic procedures, and the simulator will behave realistically in response.

This first flight, therefore, will guide you through all those basic procedures. You'll first become familiar with the main items on your panel; then you'll develop some runway logic; and then you'll learn how to pilot the airplane smoothly and easily from one airport to another.

The flight isn't difficult, but it does lay some important groundwork. Therefore, even if you already have some experience on the simulator, I think you'll find this trip to be worth your while.

General Briefing

The flight is divided into a series of separate phases, to keep things simple. Each phase is important, and dealing with each phase separately allows you to tackle things one small step at a time, to get you off to a good start.

You can still complete all the phases of this first flight in a single sitting if you wish—just move directly from one phase to the next. Your progress will be faster, however, and your flying will be more enjoyable later on, if you make sure you've mastered the procedures of each phase before you move on to the next one.

A good approach is to read the material for one phase, execute that phase, then pause program execution temporarily while you read up on the next phase before going on. If you SAVE the current flight parameters just before beginning each phase, then you can easily reset the simulator and repeat that phase if you'd like some additional practice.


Glance at your New York and Boston Area chart, and locate Kennedy International Airport. It's down near the lower left corner, on the New York end of Long Island. Sikorsky Memorial, at Bridgeport, is about 45 miles to the northeast—across Long Island Sound on the Connecticut shore. Our flight path is shown in Figure 1-1.

If you have an ordinary road map or a standard atlas handy, you might want to refer to it, so you can locate physical features along the route.

You'll be cleared for departure on Kennedy's Runway 31 Left, so you'll be taking off to the northwest. The tower will instruct you to maintain that initial runway heading as they hand you off to Kennedy Departure Control. Kennedy departure will then clear you to continue your climb to 1800 feet.

As you level off at 1800, we'll be headed toward the East River and the foot of Manhattan Island. In response to the controller's instructions, you'll then turn right to parallel the river going north.

As you pass La Guardia Airport, you'll be instructed to turn right again, onto the course that will take you first over the Whitestone and Throggs Neck Bridges, then up along the North Shore of Long Island, with Long Island Sound just to the left of your flight path. Then, Kennedy Departure will hand you off to Westchester Approach Control.

You'll continue along the North Shore until Sikorsky Memorial Airport comes into view on the far side of Long Island Sound, at which point Westchester Approach will instruct you to turn left toward the airport. You'll start across the Sound, receive a handoff to Bridgeport Tower, and then be cleared for a straight-in final approach to Sikorsky's Runway 6.

Set-Up Parameters

Call up the simulator Edit Page now, and enter the following parameters to put us on the ramp at Kennedy International. Note that you can always enter zero for the altitude to put the airplane on the ground; the correct airport elevation will then be set automatically. (On 68000 machines, select Position Set from the NAV menu, and then enter the parameters. On those versions you cannot specify a heading; instead, after the parameters load you'll have to add a little power, then turn the airplane to the indicated heading as it starts to move forward.)

Set-Up for Kennedy

Leave all the other parameters at their original default settings, including User Mode 0. (On the 68000, from the Sim menu, leave Auto Coord selected, then select Realism and click on the Gyro Drift and Barom Drift options to turn those options off.)

After new position parameters load, always be sure to check that all the parameters were loaded correctly. Sometimes they weren't, so you have to go back and enter them again.

If the setup is correct, then use the Save function to store the new settings right away. (On the 68000, select Save and Name from the Situation menu and enter a filename.) In the unlikely event of a mishap, these parameters will load automatically, saving you the trouble of entering them again. Also, if at any point you decide you'd rather start over again, you can simply reset the simulator; these parameters will load. (On the 68000, reset by selecting Recall from the Situation menu and entering the filename you used above.)

During the flight, keep the book open and handy. Feel free to pause execution of the program temporarily from time to time to consult the instructions. (On the 68000, click on Pause from the Simulator menu.)

And, of course, I'll be in the right-hand seat to coach you along the way.

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