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Simulation Matters : Do you check yourself?


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Simulation Matters : Do you check yourself?
The heart of simulation is for pilots to practise and analyse their flying skills without the absorbent costs of flying real world aircraft. In no way can simulation replace real world flying in matters of experience and knowledge, but it can fine tune skills if you have a fairly decent desktop setup with a yoke and rudder system.
It also allows for you to get deeper into working systems better. The newly updated v10.30 GARMIN GNS430/530 is a godsend here for pilots in finally giving them a real world system to use in a simulation world and is a huge plus for X-Plane in the practise and training of flying General Aviation (GA) aircraft.
In the last few years X-Plane has also jumped considerably forward for real world pilots by having the Carenado range of GA's available for purchase. I do not doubt for one moment that there are other good GA's out there for practise and training, but Carenado's range and most of all the quality to mirror the same flying aspects and abilities of the most popular GA aircraft, in that if you own a real GA aircraft, there is a very good chance it will be available in Carenado's range for you to practise with and fly.
Available to you is most aircraft in most classes from light single engined aircraft to heavy single engined aircraft, Light twins and now lately heavier twins, and even coming soon light jets.
But it is the ability to work out routes and gather information and even fly to test them out in simulation that can give you more time and readiness in the cockpit. In other words you can create flightplans and then fly the route and be aware of the environments that you will encounter on departure or arrival of your flight that will allow you to be more prepared when faced with the real experience.
Which brings up to the point of "Do you check yourself". In the real world of professional aviation it is constant round of "checks" that keep you in cockpit. There has been some debate that with the more automated flying has become then the basic standards of flying are not being adhere to or are being lost in the procedures and manuals of data entry. Two incidents that have highlighted this issue is the loss of Air France Flight 447 and the bizarre landing of the Boeing 777 Asiana Airlines Flight 214 at San Francisco...  and maybe yet be the cause of the lost Malaysian Airlines MH370.
It came to light that the captain of the lost MH370 had a very good simulation setup at home to test his skills even when he was not in the cockpit of the real airliner, (The theory that he planned the loss of the aircraft on his simulation setup is a very good one, but I doubt it as the records would have shown up to the investigators of when and were he flew the simulator even if he had wiped his hard drive, It was also noted the simulator was inoperable at the time of the incident).
So for many real world pilots is that simulation is a tool of the trade to help them with their skills and airmanship knowledge. In fact most of their time on their simulators would be used practising those skills and fine tuning their abilities while dreaming and flying a Boeing 777 for fun.
But for many of us, real world flying is not possible though age, cost or in many cases a disability. For them or us simulation opens up a world of complete freedom to fly almost anything we want to, and most of us do that.
Again over the last few years simulation has reached bounds in systems and integration that was only dreamed of only half a decade ago. And that to use the level of equipment we have to now understand and learn skills from the manuals of real world airliners and GA aircraft.
But the question remains in "how good are you really?"   Many simulation users will note that they can fly anything, and they probably can. Jumping from a huge heavy to a GA with an aplomb of skill and assurance...  but how often do you really practise?
If you note the way real world pilots fly in that they do stand to stay on one or two types of equipment for long periods, mostly for years. So should you do the same in simulation?
Even more than that do you regularly just do circuits? ....again just like the real pilots do. It is pressured within the aviation industry that pilots should do a least a few circuits every few months at least if they are not frequent flyers. Tone up the skills and get familiar with the cockpit again.
So should simulation fliers do the same. Many certainly do, but I have learnt that it does certainly help with your skills.
For one I have about ten aircraft that I constantly update my skills on and two that I use for circuits and general flying skills. In other words I "Check" myself about once a month. Usually I set aside a morning and just fly, by doing circuits and short consistent flights to set destinations and return (usually from KLAL - Lakeland).
Boring!   not really because the aim is to focus on your skills and constantly refine them. It is also a very good barometer on how the simulator itself is doing, because with any version updates you will find that some of the basic parameters of the simulator have changed or moved (usually for the better). But if you are not aware of the changes would make you wonder if your flying is not doing what it was doing only months before...  In other words the way you interact with the simulator is as important as the way you fly.



That is flying GA's on a basic flying level, just flying circuits. Then suddenly you realise that those refined skills are making their way into you whole flying sensory and skill base. At various points in time you realise you are quite good at this, in that "was a nice takeoff" or that "landing was spot on the money". And you can easily repeat the situation again and again without any serious effort.
Flying heavier aircraft usually brings in a very different aspect. The systems are deep and the aircraft's profiles in weights and procedures and most of all the flight profile in takeoff, climb, step and descent. To get these parameters working and programming the FMS to the point of perfection takes time and skill. And if you don't keep yourself fresh on the aircraft your skills will deteriorate. And flying these heavies the same way all the time is not the answer?
"Well isn't that a bit of a strange comment after noting you should practise often?" No, because flying often will just put you into a pattern that means you just go through the same motions and set up the aircraft the same way for the same result. In flying heavies they all require different parameters to achieve different goals. It is about knowing how the aircraft will react to the changes that makes them interesting and that is your skill base.
So I "check" myself on my certain heavies at certain periods of time to make sure my skill base does not deteriorate. I flew one after not flying it for over a year an a half and found I was completely well off my usual skill base on that aircraft, it took me a fortnight of reusing the aircraft to get that skill base back to the level I had before. So yes you can lose your sharper skills if you don't revisit certain cockpits often. Helicopters are far worse as you are constantly always looking to fine tune those balance skills, so your practise levels in rotary craft will always be higher than aircraft.
This summary came about because I did my regular "check" on Peter's A388, and flew the aircraft LH from Frankfurt (EDDF) to San Fransisco (KSFO). I will note I passed my "check" and was very pleased with myself, and was reacquainted with one of the great aircraft in X-Plane. But the inherent skill was still needed to complete the service competently. But in every point of the flight I made sure to learn and understand even more aspects of how the aircraft operates and at this level of service.





So I take my simulation seriously, that is my fun. And yes I do also fly for fun as well in that many times I just fly and don't come even come close to the actual performance and tight boundaries that are required for real world aviation. You can do that as well in simulation.
But nothing comes really close to getting the numbers and flight profiles just right, and getting it down right down to the correct taxi speed and the tight times of real world schedules. Fly sometimes five or six hard sectors a day like the real fly boys and girls do, and then get it just right at ever level. It is very exhausting and tiring flying....  But that also is still the best high of all in doing really good simulation.
Stephen Dutton
12th June 2014
Copyright©2014: X-Plane Reviews


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