Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Microsoft Flight Simulator X For Pilots Real World Training

Authors: Jeff Van West and Kevin Lane-Cummings

Publisher: Wiley (

ISBN: 978-0-7645-8822-8

Price: $29.99(USD): $35.99 (CAN) : £19.99 (UK) Street price $16.99 USD

Self promotion text

“It’s the next best thing to being up there – Why use Microsoft Flight Simulator for real world training? Because it gives you the best possible head start and enables you to learn at your convenience. Flight Simulator provides scenario-based training that lets you practice handling in almost any situation. It offers advantages you don’t get in a real plane – the option to set up any kind of weather or equipment failures, stop midway and redo a procedure, or get the view from outside the airplane. FSX isn’t a game. It’s a training mission for virtual and real aviators alike.”

What you get

You get a hefty 725 page paperback book, downloadable flights to do in conjunction with your reading, along with the necessary charts in PDF format. Also available for download are two bonus chapters and the practical test standards for each of the license ratings discussed in the book.

First impressions

The book is huge. Just the amount of paper and ink makes it seem like good value. The book’s illustrations are all black and white. Color versions of the images used are available on the web site. The number of chapters and subjects is impressive taking 13 pages to list. Looking through the subjects covered is daunting, but the work is obviously comprehensive.

Starting out

You will want to download the 3 zipped files of missions / charts / details etc from the publisher’s web site. The books introduction tells you exactly where to get the files from and where they need to be installed. The first chapter deals with getting FSX set up properly for the purposes of the book. It discusses PC specs and how these affect the performance you can expect to achieve within FSX, the different types of controllers used for simulation flying and the best settings within FSX to use with the tutorial flights. The book also assumes that you will be using it in conjunction with lessons at a real world flying school and so also gives hints and tips on finding the best school and instructor for you. The authors do suggest that finding an instructor with FSX experience would be beneficial especially so if they can set up scenarios for you to go through that you will be dealing with on your next lesson. FSX now has support for multi-players within the same aircraft if rain stops play and your instructor is amenable you could go through your lesson virtually with you at home and them at the flying school.

First Flight

Chapter two discusses the principles of flight in sufficient detail and explains the basics without getting too technical. Then it introduces us to the default Piper Cub.
The authors explain that the main shortfall with using FSX as a training aid is the lack of peripheral vision which real world pilots rely on to inform them of the attitude of the aircraft in flight. Simulator pilots rely much more on the instruments because they lack the real world cues. The reason for using the Piper Cub is the distinct lack of instruments to look at and a more open uncluttered cockpit so you can focus more on the horizon and get used to relying on it as you would do in a real aircraft.

The first flight within FSX raises the initial bad point, unlike the missions included in FSX or Rod Machado’s training flights there are no in-flight instructions included. The good side is there are none of the patronizing verbal compliments permeating the FSX missions. You basically load the saved flight and then have to fly with the book in one hand and your joystick in the other. Concentrating on both at the same time is impossible so prepare to become acquainted with the pause key. On the plus side the authors do include saved video’s of many of the flights so you can get an idea of what you are expected to do and how to do it prior to undertaking the flight yourself.

As an undertaking the concept and its execution are remarkable. Intensely detailed down to specific FSX recommendations for best performance, it is an awesome undertaking. Given the limitation of simulated flight, you could easily learn to fly with this book. In my mind it would be especially suited to learn systems and procedures where actual flying is secondary to learning navigation, radio use, and cockpit procedures.

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