Plane & Pilot
Saturday, March 1, 2008

Home Sims Fly To New Levels

Take off from your den!

home simsThe world of flight simulation has changed quite a bit since Edwin Link invented the first flight simulator in 1931; today, realistic simulation is available in packages that range from software that can run on a desktop computer up to multimillion-dollar systems used to train airline and military pilots.
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Aviation Supplies and Academics (ASA) offers a wide range of simulation products intended primarily for flight training but also used in a surprising number of homes, according to ASA’s Fred Zanegood. Their On Top ELITE Lighted Basic ATD is a complete, FAA-approved training device that includes a computer, two displays, rudder pedals, realistic radio stack, throttle quadrant and software. In contrast to earlier PC-based aviation training devices (PCATDs), the $5,295 On Top ELITE Basic ATD can be used to fulfill instrument currency requirements (under CFI supervision). It provides a realistic simulation of instrument flight.

home sims
HotSeat Chassis has a dedicated PC mount and display that’s built around an adjustable bucket seat and features a control stick, rudder pedals and Dolby 5.1 speakers.
ELITE Simulation Solutions offers what the company calls “the most advanced IFR simulator available for the personal computer.” The latest version includes 12 virtual airplanes (ranging from a Cessna 172R and Piper Archer up to a Beech King Air B200), a navigation database covering the United States and Canada, real-world weather simulation, highly detailed panels with instruments that can be switched between ADF and RMI or DG and HSI, two simulated GPS units, approach-chart viewing, simulated Bendix-King avionics (including the EFS-40 EHSI-EADI) and virtual instrument covers for realistic partial panel work. ELITE 8.1 Premium retails for $499. The company also provides a wide range of simulation hardware, from yokes and rudder pedals to complete FAA-approved basic and advanced ATDs.

Jeppesen SIMCharts is a $41.95 software package that lets you view real approach, departure, arrival and airport charts. The latest version covers all the airports in Microsoft Flight Simulator X (some 25,000 charts) and displays aircraft position on the chart (similar to using Jeppesen’s JeppView Flight Deck product with a compatible GPS in an actual airplane). Or print out the charts you need and put them on a clipboard. SIMCharts aren’t current and aren’t intended for navigation in a real airplane.

By far the most popular software for home flight simulation is Microsoft Flight Simulator. The latest version, introduced just last year, includes highly realistic versions of some 24 aircraft, ranging from an Air Creation trike ultralight up to a Boeing 747-400. Four of the included airplanes (Beech Baron 58, Cessna 172SP and Mooney Bravo) are available in versions with conventional “steam-gauge” instrumentation or state-of-the-art Garmin G1000 glass cockpits. Besides the simulated aircraft, Flight Simulator X offers realistic weather, highly detailed terrain, and simulated air and ground traffic. Add-ons are available for it from Microsoft and a wide variety of third-party vendors. A related product, Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator, provides an air-to-air combat environment where you fly one airplane and attempt to shoot down others that are controlled by the computer or by other players connected over the Internet.

X-Plane is a competitor to Flight Simulator that’s largely the work of one man: Austin Meyer, who wrote the first version for his own use when he was a college student. In contrast to Flight Simulator, X-Plane actually models the aerodynamics of simulated airplanes using blade element analysis, which makes it possible to test your own airplane designs (or modifications of existing designs). The underlying feature set of X-Plane is every bit as rich as Flight Simulator, with some additional features that are unique, such as the ability to fly simulated airplanes in the atmosphere of Mars.

For More Information
Aviation Supplies & Academics (ASA)
ELITE Simulation Solutions
Flight Motion Simulators

HotSeat Flight Sim

Jeppesen SIMCharts
Microsoft Flight Simulator X

PC Aviator
Precision Flight Controls


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