A New Way to Kill Time

When I was a kid, I always enjoyed flight simulators, going back years.  I’d spend hours trying to perfect how to fly the various planes, but there’s only so much you can do with an 8086 with CGA (later a 386 with EGA) graphics.  Once I hit college I didn’t have time to keep up with my interest in aviation.  But last week I got myself a copy of X-Plane 9.

I have to say, home flight simulators have come a long way since I last messed around with Flight Simulator 4.0.  At cruise altitude, it almost looks like you’re looking down from a real plane.  I spent most of the weekend flying around to various places.  I can still line up with a runway and land without crashing, though I wouldn’t characterize my landings as always beautiful.  I did a flight from Newark Liberty International, following the VORs across Pennsylvania to land at Pittsburgh.  Then flew a Cirrus Vision from Roanoke, Virginia to Westfield Massachusetts.  Total flying time, a little more than two hours.  Then for no apparent reason, I loaded up a Piper Saratoga II, and flew it from Essex County Airport in New Jersey, to Martha’s Vineyard, at night, in low visibility.  Had to pass over the runway once, but managed to land the second time without putting the plane into the drink.

The great thing about flight simulators is, you can fly while drinking bourbon.  The FAA frowns on that in a real plane.  Truth be told, I think flying while drinking is probably less dangerous then driving, since you have a lot of time to figure things out, and once you get past takeoff and landing, the computer does most of the real flying anyway.  Your job, at that point, is just to navigate.

Another new thing in these newfangled modern flight sims is they have helicopters.  I found out I can’t fly a helicopter to save my life.  I can kind of take off, and get moving forward, but I can’t hover, and I crash.  The balance between cyclic control, collective control, yaw, and compensating for wind seems to elude me.

All this could possibly get me interested in real aviation, as I once wanted to get a pilot’s license, but I don’t know if I really need another expensive hobby.  And when it comes to expense, flying puts guns to shame.

7 thoughts on “A New Way to Kill Time”

  1. One of the versions of MS Flight Simulator allowed the player to adjust wing and tail sizes. I’d give a Cessna a 150 foot wingspan. (I think the plane just broke apart on the runway.)

  2. On the Heli, proper controls will help a lot. A joystick with twist rudder just isnt going to cut it, grab a HOTAS and some pedals and you’ll be able to tame the beast ;) A used Saitek x45 or a a X52pro are ok, or the Thrustmaster Cougar, a exact replica of the F-16 throttle and stick are real nice. Not to mention great for fighter sims.

    For pedals, these are ok:

    Using the throttle as the collective, rudder pedals for tail rotor and a stick for cyclic makes it much more realistic and easier to control. Helis are inherently unstable, the trick is to correct almost before it happens, and not to overcontrol. Smooth, and gentle wins. I love flight sims, just wish I had the money for real cool stuff like this:

    Sucks I’m broke lol

  3. Sebastian, I just wanted you to know that this blog post will probably make my wife very unhappy with me. She had just about talked me into getting rid of my box of joysticks and pedals in the basement, now they are going to have to make a re-appearance!

  4. I still haven’t gotten around to getting a good flight sim, My biggest thing is that I want a yoke, rudder pedals and throttle quadrant. I got my Private ticket in 2001 right before the world went to hell, It was about $5k at the time, It’d be more expensive noe probably. When I moved to Vegas I had to give up flying as it costs twice as much here compared to NW Indiana. If you just stick to a typical 172/182/arrow its fairly reasonable from a cost standpoint but the faster stuff definitely gets up there cost wise with a serious NFA habit.

  5. Wait. You mean I’m NOT allowed to fly while I’m drinking? Shit! When did they implement this policy? Damn Obama administration!!!

    Next you’ll be telling me I can’t smoke a jay on my drive home!

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