Flap's Flap 18 - How Real Can "As Real As It Gets" Be?
By John J. Thuot II (28 December 2006)
As time goes by though, things usually happen to us along the path of life that changes us and makes us almost forget those little promises to ourselves. Now being a 33 year old, I realize it's impossible to consider going back for an education in flight training. No means is it a question of affordability or health wise, with all the various financial aide programs that exist now a days, but it would just be too long and impossible to complete the training to allow a suitable career for me in the industry. So now, whenever I sit in front of my computer and relish on my thoughts, I am looking to expand my "Immersing ourselves in our Simulator" article with this little addendum I guess you could call it.
There are many ways we can expand our hobby to make this "As real as it gets" to use the famous phrase from Microsoft. But how real can we make it get?
With the oodles of references out there, many have taken to building fully functional flight decks while others may not be that technically inclined, there are less expensive systems out there such as Go-Flight's modules that simulate real buttons instead of keyboard and mouse interaction. Others, like myself have gone beyond the basic set up and added a yoke and rudder pedals and a Saitek flight control system for stick based aircraft such as the beloved F-14 Tomcat or the civilian Extra 300s and Airbus airliner models. Realize however that these items are not cheap by any means, and can be relatively costly depending upon budgets out there, but there are sources that let you buy used ones such as eBay and other shops if you don't want to buy brand new, and you could make a considerable saving.
Another aspect of the "As real as it gets" factor in flight simulation is the flight planning process. The opinion that I have of the basic flight planner that comes with the main program is so rudimentary and basic, I feel it's basically disgusting as far as that portion goes. I have tried FS Navigator and loved it, but with that not being FSX ready, I have been forced to go elsewhere. All I have to say is thank God for Ernie Allston and his FS Build series, which is FSX updated. I needed more than that however. Obviously to have flight planning software, one must understand how to properly plan a successful VFR flight. I actually took this one step further to do so and went to the local library to look up flight planning information. What I had come across was a video series of King Schools, (now we all know where they're from, huh) and watched the videos. They cover everything for being a private pilot and it truly makes Flight Simulator a more realistic experience, from being able to actually know what to do with the ADF equipment and navigational radios, to knowing the proper cloud clearances for VFR flight, and learning when to report clear of airspaces and when to request clearance into others.
However with me being the flightsim perfectionist that I am, that still was not enough. What can be done next? There is another program available from AirNav Systems; the same folks who bought us the excellent FS Live Traffic program call Live Flight Tracker 6. This is a subscription based and time limited usage program, which is definitely well worth the cost. What you can do with this software is astounding.
You can track live flights over the internet, not Flight Simulator flights, but real live flights from airlines to General Aviation. So, if you want to do a flight in a Beech V35 you can find active ones out there live, and see their flight plans as well, and bingo - true to life flight plans in Flight Simulator made possible. You might still have to do some editing in the FS Build program to get them to show up properly since names can be off in the sim world, but otherwise, it should be pretty close.
Well, before I go off ranting and raving over here, I'm going to finish this subject before it gets really out of hand. However, I honestly feel that with all the let downs that occur in life, I can honestly say I truly accomplished one, being a pilot if only virtually. There are advantages and a few disadvantages to various things that us simmers do experience other than the true aviator, computer problems and software glitches, etc. But at least we can look at it this way, if we want a new plane rather than spending hundred and thousands of dollars getting it we can get it for free or possibly a small purchase price of anywhere up to fifty dollars. My favorite part of this whole scenario is if we have a misshap on approach, we can walk away with it without a scratch. To me, it just doesn't get any better than that.
Well, until next time, everyone have a great holiday and happy flying, and keep the blue side up! As always, if you have any questions or comments, please email me. I love to hear from my readers.
Now, for some light legal stuff:
Flap's Flap does not accept any responsibility for varied performance in systems. Please note my system specs and the display properties work fine with MY system. Set your display properties accordingly to your computer. Also, with any How To items that are given in these articles, please use at your own risk! I will hold no responsibility to any damage done to your system. And, as always, remember: Back up your files before changing them!
John J. Thuot II