Realistic Commercial Flying with Flight Simulator

by John Rafferty


Few microcomputer simulations can rival the authenticity of Flight Simulator and Flight Simulator II. However, as impressive as they are, there are still certain elements of true aviation experience these programs don't provide.

For example, the usual purpose of an aircraft is to provide transportation, but when we “fly” the simulator, we do so without any meaningful transportation objective or destination. Further, real-world flights are planned and conducted in the context of uncertain forecasts and dynamically evolving weather with an ever-present possibility of the unexpected. Our simulator excursions take place under known, static conditions. Also, while the hallmarks of serious real-world flying are the clearances and en-route instructions constantly and routinely issued by Air Traffic Control, the unfolding drama of these pilot-controller interactions is completely absent from our Simulator experience.

The purpose of Realistic Commercial Flying, therefore, is to provide the missing links of authentic commercial flying. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned Flight Simulator “pro,” this volume enables you to taste the true flavor of contemporary commercial flying in a way that has never before been possible.

Setting and Assignment

The chapter for each commercial flight first describes an authentic aviation setting at a specified airport and establishes your particular role in that situation. For example, you might be a senior pilot with a commuter airline, a partner in a general aviation firm at the airport, or a part-time commercial pilot who takes assignments for the airport FBO (Fixed-Base Operator).

Once the setting and your role have been established, a logical commercial flying assignment emerges from that particular situation. Your assignments include scheduled commuter flights, air-taxi round robins, night-mail flights, express deliveries, and aircraft ferry flights—according to the particular setting.

Preflight and Ground Procedures

Once you have your assignment, you're guided through the usual preflight procedures. You first obtain and review a conventional weather briefing, and, on that basis, plan your route, prepare a flight log, and file for an IFR clearance. Program setup values provided put you in position on the ramp and establish the initial environmental conditions.

When you're in the cockpit with the engine running, Ground Control provides an IFR clearance, which you “copy” in the usual way. The routing and altitudes specified in this clearance may or may not be the routing and altitudes you requested when filing your flight plan, since ATC clearances reflect the prevailing air traffic and weather.

Once you have your IFR clearance, Ground Control clears you to taxi, directs you toward the active runway, and hands you off to the Control Tower.

Departure and En-Route Procedures

The Tower provides your departure clearance as well as an initial heading and altitude limit, and as you leave the airport, it hands you off in the usual way to the particular Departure Control or Approach Control facility handling departing traffic in that locale.

Departure fits you into its traffic flow, vectors you toward an appropriate fix along your route, and clears you to resume normal navigation in accordance with your clearance. You're then handed off to the sequence of ATC Center controllers who monitor your progress en route.

You proceed with the flight under the usual kinds of uncertainties: Weather developments may or may not be consistent with the forecasts, ATC occasionally contacts you with an amended clearance routing, and, of course, there's always the chance of some mechanical or electronic malfunction.


Approaching your destination, you're handed off to the appropriate Approach Control facility. Approach usually provides radar vectors to your destination airport and indicates what runway and approach procedure to expect. As you enter the airport traffic area, you're handed off to the Tower.

The Tower provides your landing clearance, which may involve a visual approach or a published instrument procedure, depending on conditions. (When a published procedure is specified, the required approach “plate” is provided with the text.)

Once you're on the runway, the Tower hands you off to Ground Control. Ground then clears you to taxi and directs you to the appropriate parking ramp or gate.

The Bridgeport Certification Program

The first five flights originate at the (imaginary) Bridgeport Flight Center (BFC), which is on the field at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Connecticut. These flights are presented as “dual” check rides, meaning they're flown with an instructor/flight examiner in the right-hand seat. A ground-school briefing is also provided for each of the flights so you can read through the various concepts and procedures before actually trying things out in the air.

The purpose of the five BFC check rides is to provide whatever flight training or brush-up work you might require before moving on to the professional assignments—that way, you can fully enjoy the commercial flights. If you're a relative beginner, you can linger on the initial material as long as you want, practicing the various procedures until you master them to your own satisfaction. If you're more experienced, on the other hand, feel free to move right through the BFC check rides as quickly as you wish.

After completing the five check rides to your satisfaction, you're considered “certified” for commercial flying.

Using the Book

Generally, the flights progress from relatively simple ones to assignments of increasing challenge. For this reason, you can probably get the most satisfaction from the book if you start with the initial check rides at Sikorsky Memorial Airport and then proceed through the various commercial assignments in the order in which they appear.

A separate briefing provided for many of the flights introduces new technical material or provides suggestions that might be helpful. Those flights probably are more enjoyable if you at least glance over the relevant briefing before you depart.

Readers who want a more thorough preparation for these assignments can consult Learning to Fly with Flight Simulator (by this author, also from COMPUTE! Books). It covers the same type of material provided by the BFC check-ride program, but at a more leisurely pace. COMPUTE!'s Flying on Instruments with Flight Simulator is also a useful companion volume. Neither of these books, however, is essential to your enjoyment of this one.

Who Should Read This Book

Realistic Commercial Flying is intended for all users of the Flight Simulator or Flight Simulator II microcomputer software in any version. It assumes you know how to load the program and that you have a basic familiarity with the various keyboard controls for your particular version. No prior simulator experience or aviation knowledge is required.

A Final Note

This volume is intended only for use with the Flight Simulator and Flight Simulator II computer software. Although the aviation procedures it presents are generally authentic, the nature of the program and the microcomputer setting do require an occasional compromise with strict aviation practice. Thus, the charts and instructions provided here should not be used in an actual aviation environment.

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