Grandfather Sim Pilot
By Chip Barber (13 June 2006)
This may have something to do with my impending grandfatherhood. Perhaps I'm simply a victim of years and years of commercialization. See, there's this mental image I hold of a grandfather. Kind of rolly-polly, good natured, white hair, rimless glasses. Wizened. Able to produce at a moment's notice countless variety of wisdom, empathy and spare change for ice cream.
Then, there's me. Rolly polly (I'm working on that, which may explain my distinct lack of good nature), salt & pepper hair, glasses with half rims (not a grand dad just yet, but give it time). And, I'm afraid, the poor grandkids will have to fight me for the ice cream.
But here's the thing. To my mind, a grandfather does things. He fixes things, usually the things the kids break, but mostly (for me anyway) the things he's tried to fix before. The last thing he does is play on a computer. Like Trix (a sugary American breakfast cereal of dubious nutritional value which is very popular with the American Dental Association), computers are for kids. And yet, I spend an inordinate amount of time before them. And what is worse, the vast majority of that time is spent in the pursuit of gaming satisfaction.
Sim pilot? Isn't there a fishing lure that needs to be tied? Well, not really, no. Grandpa is still vexed by the FMC on all products Boeing. And Airbus. And McDonnell Douglas. I swear, if the human race were dependent upon my ability to program the FMC for a flight consisting only of departure, arrival and three intervening waypoints, with no DP or STAR, this planet of ours would become a very lonely place in no time. Honestly now, how many of you can successfully enter all that is necessary for the damn aircraft to take off, fly in a fuel efficient manner, obey all speed and crossing restrictions, and kiss the pavement? God, I hate those damn things!
So, the one thing about a grandfather is that he's, well, he's just good at things. Or if not, at least he can talk a good game to the younger set. Now the question becomes, if my grand kids are going to come to know that their old grandpa is a sim pilot, what good is he if he can't even manage to program an FMC? And you do realize that by the time the kids are six or seven, they'll manage it without even reading the manual.
Do you remember getting your first VCR? OK, now be honest. For those of you who still have them, how many have yet to have the correct time programmed? Unless there were kids in the house, those things blinked 00:00 until they were tossed. We, as kids, having spent all of two minutes looking at the machine, were able to press a few buttons in the proper sequence, and voila, the VCR was running, timing and recording on one channel while watching another. Without us kids, the "old folks" were lucky to get it to play, let alone program it to record tomorrow's showing of Charlie's Angels.
So with this in mind, I am starting to sweat. I figure I've got perhaps four more years to learn how to successfully program and fly these beasts. I have just noticed Flight 1 is working towards releasing an MD80 with several tutorials attached. The last thing I need in my hangar is another Mad Dog, but the allure of those tutorials may well prove to be my undoing. I've become not only a sucker for a new aircraft, but nearly anything that advertises ease of programming.
I may have said this before. I'm a lazy sim pilot. I'm rather fond of default aircraft. There is poetry in hitting "autostart", a taxi to the active, a quick check of RTO and flaps and a quick little peck on the TOGA. Heck, I've got it programmed so that all I need to do is say "toga" and Voice Buddy does the rest. I've got a virtual co-pilot who keeps me informed of my V speeds, and is kind enough to remind me to rotate, should I have happened to doze off as we scream down the runway. Gear up, altitude and clean up the aircraft and then it's up to Newton and the default GPS to guide me towards the TOD. Happy happy. Reduce thrust, a little localizer action and we're squealing rubber. Man, I love the roar of the reversers! And, that's just about it. We're done.
Just who invented the FMC, anyway? Without that, I would be sitting pretty about now. Show the grandkids how old grandpa handles the heavy iron. Sure, I hate to fly in them, but man, give me a fast CPU/video Card and lots of RAM, and watch my smoke! But nooooooo. Now, I sit for an hour with a tutorial spread before me, glasses off, pecking away. TAT? Well, some geek thought it would save a gallon of jet fuel, so now it's important. The slope of the runway? Nope. Thanks to our good friends the Jeppsen's, the charts are a few clicks away. Have you tried reading those things? TDZE. I mean, really...
You know, I'm giving serious consideration to going back to the Cessna bug mashers. Of course, then I've got the FS2Crew pilot doing checklists and waggling the rudder before takeoff. And that annoying passenger guy! Who is that, anyway? Oh yeah, that's me. I like that guy!
In the meantime, I've found some programs I like. Perfect Flight has a series of adventures out, the latest of which is the Adventures Unlimited Volume 7 - Delta Airlines. As I did some voice and manual work on this, I've gotten to preview it. Now, those of you who are able to program the FMC's of the world may not particularly enjoy this line, as there are no flight computers. These are somewhere in the intermediate level of flight sim sophistication. And I'll tell you, I add a couple of my favorite add-ons, and it's like being untied from the damn tracks. Something new all the time, yet with cockpits I can manage on the first try. They seem easy, as I've gotten familiar with the ERJ and PIC cockpits with their dizzying array of buttons, switches and flow charts. A step above default, but not so far above that one is unable to grasp them first time out.
(Please note I have no financial interest whatsoever in Perfect Flight or their products!)
So, I'm a sim pilot. A lazy sim pilot. A lazy sim pilot who is hopelessly behind the learning curve and in serious jeopardy of looking like a poor excuse of a grandfatherly lazy sim pilot to his grand kids. But, that's ok. I'm hoping by the time they're old enough to realize this, the level of "real life" automation will be sufficient to allow even one like me to excel at the digital level. I'm hoping to be able to impress them with my ability to circumnavigate the globe effortlessly, touch down in places I can show them on the map, enjoy what is certain to be glorious eye candy on the machines of the future, and contribute to some small degree to their appreciation of geography and maybe even their budding interest in our hobby.
And if not, I can always talk a good game!