Recently, a magazine article highlighted the 5 things you can do to stay busy while practicing social distancing. Number 5, of course, was “learn how to fly an airplane”. While that’s a great idea while social distancing, the current environment also offers a great opportunity for pilots to sharpen their skills. After all, the more you practice, the better you will be. The question is, “How can you practice without an aircraft or by not going to a simulation training center?” The answer is quite simple: built your own home simulator.
The good news is, if you’re like a lot of pilots, you may already have a basic setup at home consisting of a computer, yoke or stick, monitors or VR. You might even be equipped with a headset to listen and talk. If you don’t, consider investing in the items you need to create your own flight simulator. For flight simulator software, you should consider X-Plane, Microsoft Flight Simulator or Prepar3D. All three are used by hundreds of thousands of users worldwide.
Once you have the equipment needed, here’s how to proceed.
To begin, configure your simulator realistically and set a location near where you live as well as the time and season. Next, conduct a pre-flight routine like in real life. Be sure to get a checklist for your make and model aircraft and look at the section “pre-flight inspection.” Several things that you would check on a real aircraft can be checked in a simulator. For example, look at the control surfaces and move them. Then, check the flaps extension, lights, and fuel. Also be sure to note the weight of your passengers as well as yourself, and make sure they are within the limits stated in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH).
The next part of pre-flight is planning. What is your destination? Are you familiar with the airport you have selected? Once you’ve settled on that, prepare for takeoff. While you’re at it, try different takeoff and landing styles, such as soft, short, and no flaps. You’ll be amazed at how simulators can duplicate the feel of how the aircraft would behave in a variety of circumstances. Without the distractions of a real airplane, you can focus on the minutiae of maneuvers training. Once airborne, try stalls, unusual attitudes, and steep turns. Not only is this great for developing a good sense for instrument and external information coordination, but it’s also fun.
To add some socializing, challenge your friends to fly the same scenario and see who performs the best. Finally, descent to your destination, land on the tarmac and taxi to your gate.
During these challenging times, the important thing is to stay engaged in flying and keep your spirits up. By honing your skills with a home flight simulator, you’ll enjoy a few hours of distraction while getting to do what you love best. Virtually, that is.
welcome aboard the new airside
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