• Breaking the Boundaries - From Flight Simulation to Real Flight

    The most obvious difference between real-life flying and that of a simulated environment, has to be with the scenery. Whilst you can do everything in your power to make your P3D and X-Plane look realistic, nothing will ever beat how the real world looks and feels. Looking down at the world, and seeing the cars on the road, the towns and cities grouped together, and the odd plume of smoke from farmers burning old waste stock, it just doesn't compare to a simulator. FSX especially gets the sense of scale wrong, with buildings looking far too big from the sky (flying at 2000 feet in FSX looks nothing like real-life). However, in saying that, there are some things that flight simulators do get right!

    Thanks to Blade Element Theory, it's possible to get a flight simulator's flight dynamics very close to what you would expect to feel in the real world. That means things like, banking, wind, and weight effects, are possible to replicate in simulators such as X-Plane, thanks to their method of calculating the airflow around different parts of the aircraft.

    Aircraft systems can also be replicated to a high degree in flight simulation. In a smaller, high quality model aircraft, it is possible to have each individual function work, while the same can also be said for larger aircraft with more advanced systems. When you look at the PMDG 737 on FSX, or the FlightFactor A320 on X-Plane, they are both aircraft with fully fledged systems that work exactly as you would expect them to do in the real world.

    Air Traffic Control is another area in which simulators can excel, thanks to free communities like VATSIM, and (if they can get their voice codecs right), IVAO and PilotEdge. These communities have real people directing traffic and controlling airspaces. As a result, it's possible to achieve some really good in-depth simming; one which is pretty close to that of the real world.

    Anyway, back to the flight!

    As we approached Duxford, we left Luton Approach and contacted the tower, who took us in left downwind, with a loop around the town. As Ben and I crossed the motorway, we lined up with the runway to land. A few moments later, Ben skilfully brought us in for a nice soft landing.

    Landing fees at Duxford are only £15, which of course I paid for. It's also worth mentioning that when you land at Duxford, you get two hours free entry to the Duxford Museum, which is a nice extra bonus!

    All too soon though, it was time to head back to Elstree. My job on the return leg was to help with aircraft spotting, and this was something I rather enjoyed. Keeping an eye on a vintage bi-plane which had taken off a few moments before, was my first task, and I made sure that Ben and I kept well clear of it.

    For the return journey, we decided to take a slightly different, more interesting route; one which would take us over Luton Airport during a gap in the traffic.

    On contacting the tower, they told us to hold at OXLEY until further instruction. Holding however didn't last too long, and we were cleared through the Northern Airfield Boundary. A few moments later, there in all its glory, was Britain's most hated airport...EGGW Luton.

    It's safe to say that I'm no fan of Luton, but seeing it from this perspective, I must say...it looked rather beautiful. As luck would have it, we had timed our crossing at just the right moment, as an easyJet A320 was departing right beneath us. Personally, Luton was the highlight of the trip, and is something I'd definitely want to experience again!


    2 Comments
    1. DominicS's Avatar
      DominicS -
      Lovely article Michael, well done...I thoroughly enjoyed the read!

      Dominic
    1. stevefranklin's Avatar
      stevefranklin -
      Very enjoyable!
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