PC Pilot

The Complete Guide to Computer Aviation
by Steve Smith


When my friends and I first got Flight Simulator 4.0, we used to take simulated trips to the West Coast…in real time. On Friday night, we'd take off from LaGuardia, feeding in local conditions from the Weather Channel (cloud cover, wind speed and direction, turbulence, thunderstorm activity, etc.).

Landing a couple of times en route (EZ-OFF, EZ-ON; nobody ever seemed to be closed), we'd fly all night and all the next day (all but the approaches on autopilot), landing at John Wayne International Airport in Orange County, just south of L.A., on Saturday evening. After a let's-pretend dinner aboard Newport Beach's famous Reuben E. Lee, we'd fly back to New York all Saturday night and all day Sunday, arriving absolutely exhausted Sunday evening. What were we thinking?

Now, with Flight Simulator 5.0's real-world navigation system, I should be pushing my sleep deprivation envelope by replicating Lindbergh's transatlantic flight (he flew for hours at wavetop height in the dark just to scare himself awake), but I find myself attempting not merely the improbable but the impossible, like landing the Lear on the Nimitz. Landing the Cessna is easy; the flight deck is the size of the parking lot at Disney World. With the Lear, you have to loft yourself up in a low arc (the flight deck is 144 feet above the waterline), kill the power, and flare. And slam on the brakes—no arrestor cables and no thrust reversers. I'll do it yet.

And I still haven't mastered the trick of gaining a perch on the roof of the south tower of the World Trade Center; didn't Kurt Russell accomplish this in Escape from New York?

But that's the joy of Flight Simulator—there's always one more thing to be discovered, to be attempted, to be mastered.

Come to think of it, it is a little like a game.

And a lot like life.

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