Learning to Fly with Flight Simulator

by John Rafferty


This book deals with aviation realism. Its purpose is to bring you a truly authentic experience of modern aviation, using any version of Flight Simulator (from Microsoft) or Flight Simulator II (from SubLOGIC).

Both student and licensed pilots should find the book helpful. It assumes no prior aviation knowledge or experience, however. It starts out with the basics, and then leads you along in easy steps through the same authentic procedures that are used on a daily basis on commercial flights.

The Software

Bruce Artwick's Flight Simulator software is among the most commercially successful programs ever written for the personal computer. The program's potential for realistic flight is so extensive, in fact, that its virtues are difficult to describe.

However, largely because of that realism, many people find the program difficult to use, and it's a safe bet that very few of those who have used the program have even begun to appreciate its true potential. There's actually very little that an airline captain does on the average commercial flight that you can't do on the simulator in the very same way—but you do have to learn the ropes.

Learning to Fly

Learning to Fly with Flight Simulator will teach you those ropes in easy-to-follow steps. Through a sequence of hands-on flights, you'll be led gradually from taxi and takeoff through all the conventional procedures, all the way to the execution of sophisticated instrument approaches.

In the process you'll learn to…

And most importantly, you'll find that flying the simulator in a professional manner is satisfying, exhilarating, and fun.

The book is divided into five chapters, which start with the basics and progress gradually to more advanced flying procedures.

Chapter 1. All the fundamentals in a single flight are covered. After completing that flight you'll be able to find your way around any airport, take off smoothly, cruise easily en route, and then approach an airport and land in the proper manner.

Chapter 2. Building on the basic skills you learned in the first chapter, now you'll learn to make standard rate turns, to land from a standard traffic pattern, to handle short-field situations and in-flight emergencies, and to prepare and execute a flight plan. Plus, you'll begin using your navigational (NAV) radios to find your way from point to point without having to see the ground. At the end of this series, you'll be able to lay out and then efficiently execute a totally realistic flight plan between any two airports you choose.

Chapter 3. You'll add to your expertise by learning precision landings, by making more sophisticated use of your NAV radios and automatic direction finder, and by flying the victor airways.

Chapter 4. Now you move on to truly professional procedures: For each flight in this sequence, you'll use the published approach chart for your destination airport, and you'll use the very same en route and arrival procedures that are used on a daily basis by commercial airlines. Then, on the chapter's final flight, you'll deal with varying winds aloft, fly through varying cloud conditions, be routed by Air Traffic Control to an alternate airport, and be directed to fly the prescribed holding pattern over that airport before you're finally cleared to descend into the clouds and execute the published instrument approach.

Chapter 5. The use of prescribed approaches to individual airport runways is an important element in realistic flight, but charts for these approaches are not provided as part of the flight simulator package. These charts are published by the Department of Commerce and are available to anyone by annual subscription, but for recreational use their cost (of hundreds of dollars) would be prohibitive.

For that reason, Part 5 provides a large collection of these charts, which you can use to plan and execute truly authentic flights on your own. The collection includes nearly all the instrument approaches published by the government for all of the airports available on the program.

Finally, the Appendices describe the use of the program's Realistic Mode and provide both a brief reference to the keyboard controls on different Flight Simulator versions and an overview of the use of the mouse and menus on machines that use the 68000 chip (Amiga, Atari and Macintosh). A list of suggested reading and an index are also provided.

Using This Book

This book belongs to you, so you're free to use it any way you choose. However, you'll find that most of the flights build upon skills that were developed on previous trips; for that reason, you'll probably get the most from the book if you take the flights in the order in which they appear.

Most flights begin with a briefing, which explains everything you need to know before departure. This is generally followed by a preview—a brief overview of the trip—to give you an idea of what's involved. The set-up parameters are then provided, to put the airplane in position at the appropriate airport; the initial NAV radio settings are also given here, when they apply.

Then, after loading the program and entering the setup parameters, you can go ahead and taxi; from there on you'll follow the step-by-step instructions that are provided in "From the Right-Hand Seat," a section that simulates the role of an on-board instructor during the flight.

You're encouraged to use the save function for your particular version of the program frequently, storing the current flight parameters in memory for easy return (by resetting the program) should you wish to repeat a segment of the flight. Also, feel free to pause program execution at any time, to stop and think, or to look something up.

The IBM PC Version. Both Microsoft Flight Simulator for the IBM and Flight Simulator II for other computers were written by Bruce Artwick and are virtually identical. The IBM version does not provide ADF equipment, however, so IBM users may want to skip Flights 16, 23 and 24, which deal with ADF. The IBM version also provides retractable landing gear, and the airplane trims out a little differently in flight, so these minor differences are mentioned in the text where appropriate. Note also that many of the airports and some of the VOR facilities that are referred to in this book are not actually shown on the charts that come with the IBM-version disk, but you'll find that those facilities are nevertheless available in the program.

The Amiga, Atari, and Macintosh version. These versions of Flight Simulator II are also essentially the same as other versions of the program, but they have a few unique characteristics. Like the IBM version, these also provide retractable landing gear, and the airplane trims out a little differently in flight, so these small variations are indicated in the text where they apply. In addition, the 68000 versions can be flown entirely with the mouse, as outlined in Appendix C.

Well, that should do it. Let's go flying.

The charts provided in the figures throughout the book are not precisely to scale, and are not meant for use in actual aviation. Also, please note that, though the official approach plates which are provided in Part 5 are authentic, by the time this book is published some frequencies, navigational fixes or other details may have been changed, so charts may not be considered current for use in actual aviation.

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