Expanding Your Hobby
For many virtual pilots, what comes in the box is only the beginning
Read about the History Of Flight Simulator
If you can't get enough of Microsoft Flight Simulator, you're not alone. The Flight Simulator community includes thousands of individuals, organizations, and companies that share your passion for aviation. When you're ready to make your hours in the Flight Simulator cockpit even more rewarding, explore some of the suggestions below.
Flight Simulator News
Flight Simulator News is the best place to start browsing for updated Flight Simulator-related information and products. Click the News link on the left side of your screen.
Once you've earned your wings in Flight Simulator and perhaps moved up through the ranks of Commercial and Airline Transport Pilot ratings in Flying Lessons, you may be ready for a new challenge: flying for a virtual airline. If you've always wondered what it would be like to be an airline pilot, this is your chance to find out. More than 100 virtual airlines operate on the Web, and usually becoming a pilot for one of them is simply a matter of signing up and successfully completing their training.
Each airline has its own style and emphasis. Some specialize in cargo operations, while others fly passengers. Some virtual airlines fly the latest glass-cockpit jetliners on routes that span continents and oceans, while others fly beat-up bush planes on island-hopping charter routes.
Virtual airline training programs vary; some include elaborate and realistic exercises. So, if you're looking to learn the most from your virtual airline pilot career, select a virtual airline with the most extensive training program possible. Some training programs are even designed by certified flight instructors. If you return your training aircraft undamaged, chances are you'll be welcomed into the fleet.
Once on board, you'll download the airline's aircraft, scenery, and training materials, and then use Flight Simulator to complete your assigned flights. You'll send reports of your flights back to the airline and work your way through different ratings, aircraft, and routes.
Virtual Career Advice
You'll likely begin your virtual airline career flying smaller aircraft before moving up to the big jets, just like in the real world. Because it takes time to move up through the ranks, you need to choose a virtual airline that will likely stay around. To get an idea of a virtual airline's longevity, it helps to investigate.
Participating in most virtual airlines is free, although some charge a small fee. The virtual airline community on the Web is growing rapidly: new airlines pop up most every day, and a number of organizations are taking leadership roles within the community by providing enthusiasts with news, airline directories, and bulletin boards.
Amateur and professional software developers all over the world have created easy-to-install products that can enhance your Flight Simulator experience. Check the shelves of your local computer store, and be sure to search the Web for downloadable add-ons (many are freeware or shareware). The Flight Simulator Web site maintains links to sites with downloadable aircraft.
If you enjoy flying a variety of aircraft, add-ons offer literally thousands to choose from. There are also add-on avionics packages that simulate the latest display and navigation technology, and specialized scenery areas that make the Flight Simulator world even more realistic. A few add-ons even enable Flight Simulator pilots to fly together in a radar-controlled environment over the Internetówith real people acting as air traffic controllers. Or you can create your own add-ons with utilities that let you build your own aircraft, panels, scenery, and adventures.
Your Desktop Cockpit
If you want to make your desktop seem more like the cockpit of a real airplane, add some hardware. The options range from full desktop consoles with working switches down to the basics: a joystick or a yoke and rudder pedals. You can find these accessories at many computer stores and online.
Real-world pilots fly using their hands and feet. Plug in a pair of rudder pedals to your computer, and you'll find that you have much greater control over the simulated aircraft you fly. The coordinated use of rudder and aileron when making turns will become more intuitive, and you'll become a better pilot both on and off-screen. Rudder pedals are especially useful if you enjoy flying helicopters.
As a Flight Simulator pilot, you'll find many real-world pilot supplies useful. Find a local flight school or pilot's shop in the phone book, and then head over to see what they have. Someone there will be glad to show you around. (And they'll probably try to sign you up for flying lessons, too!) Maybe you'll become a student pilot; maybe you'll just walk out with an armload of aviation toys. Either way, it will have been a trip worth making.
If you'd rather do your shopping from the comfort of home, a number of well-known pilot supply companies do business on the Web. Search the Web for "pilot's shop." While you're shopping, take a look at the aviation charts (some stores even give them away when they're out-of-date), calculators, course plotters, and radio scanners. Most stores also stock a supply aviation books on subjects such as aircraft and aircraft systems, weather, navigation, communications, training, and other topics that Flight Simulator pilots will appreciate.
Fly for Real
Flight Simulator is a simulation and a training aid all rolled into one package. Many Flight Simulator enthusiasts go on to become licensed pilots, and many pilots (both recreational and professional) fire up Flight Simulator to have fun and practice their skills. It's not unusual these days for a new student to arrive at the airport for a first flight lesson already knowing about control towers, stalls, and the horizontal component of lift.
Flight Simulator provides a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere where pilots can learn and practice the fundamentals of visual and instrument flying, including:
Student pilots using Flight Simulator can isolate specific tasks and focus on them without the distractions and complexities of flying a real aircraft in busy airspace. Instructors can use Flight Simulator as an interactive tool for pre- and post-flight demonstrations, as well as for classroom presentations. Instructors find the ability to save specific situations as flights, record and play back "videos" of Flight Simulator flights, and induce failures particularly useful. Keep in mind, however, that although Flight Simulator makes a great complement to flight training, it's not a substitute for instruction from a Certified Flight Instructor and is not part of an approved training program under the standards of the FAA or any other regulatory authority.