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Thread: 80 hour student. Noob to Simulators. Recommendations.

  1. #1

    80 hour student. Noob to Simulators. Recommendations.

    Long story short, I've been a student pilot for many years now. Life, money, time, no flight school in my area for years, etc. have all contributed to my "on again, off again" flight training.
    I'm getting back into a C152 in a few weeks (now that there's a flight school here) , but would love to invest in a computer dedicated to a flight sim that I can use at home on days I'm not flying.
    NOW.... I have no home computer. Haven't had one in years, since the iPhone and iPad came out. No need for one, since I can use my phone and tablet in its place.

    First, I will need to purchase a PC. I have no idea where to begin.

    Second, a bit of info on what I'm wanting in a Flight Sim. Basically, a simple flight simulator (with yoke, rudder peddles, throttle, flaps, carb heat) for flying a C150 and C172. As close to real life as possible. I know I won't ever move into anything much larger than these 2 aircraft. Everything I do will be in small General Aviation aircraft.
    I also own an Ultralight airplane. So I'll be flying a stick (not a yoke) taildragger, as well as the C152.

    I've used the search here and there's a lot of random, older posts on this subject. Hoping someone here can help me as I move forward.

  2. #2
    lnuss's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Let me suggest that there are (mostly) three choices for the sim, Microsoft's FSX through Steam, Lockheed Martin's Prepar3d and X-Plane. In all of these, the faster and more powerful the computer, the better, however you can probably get by with a computer (not counting peripherals) in the $1200-$2000 range. I think you'd be very unhappy with the performance of any machine much under $1000-$1200. And don't get a laptop, unless you want to spend twice as much or more for the same performance.

    There are also many physical add-ons (peripherals) in the form of joysticks (with and without throttles), yokes and pedals, in addition to a number of control panels that have various switches and knobs on them. But if you're not careful, you can spend more on these than the computer costs. IMHO a simple stick, throttle and rudder pedals can suffice for all your needs.

    You must keep in mind that although the sim works wonders as a procedures trainer, it doesn't give you the feel of a real airplane, even having to use arrow keys or a special switch on the stick to just look around, unless you get something like TrackIR that mounts an infrared camera on your monitor and a sensor on your cap or glasses, giving you six degrees of freedom to look around. As a result, it will be of very little help in, for instance, ground reference maneuvers (S-turns, turns about a point, etc.), slow flight and stalls. So since you already have a training background, there's a very strong limit to what you can learn on the sim, in terms of working towards your Private ticket, especially since you'd be unsupervised (no CFI) and might pick up a bad habit or three which would cost more (real) flying time to break. It'll also take you a while to learn the computer enough to use the sim.

    Finally, I'd suggest you go to, which is a flightsimming forum, and ask many questions. There are many experienced simmers there, many of whom are also real world pilots.

    A final note: you can buy quite a few flight lessons for the cost of getting into simming, so if you have no other use for a computer, you might want to explore this more deeply before spending much money on it. A possible alternative to simming to gain proficiency and (to me) just as effective, is to sit in your easy chair after every flight, close your eyes, mentally put your hands and feet on the controls, and relive the training flight(s) for 10-15 minutes, perhaps two or three times after each flight. After all, much of flight training is training your muscle memory, and the above works pretty well for that.

    I've pointed out a few downsides, but there are some good things about it, too, including the possibility of it becoming a nice hobby, if that appeals to you, but don't get your expectations up too much, since it's not magic.

    Larry N.

  3. #3
    Wow lnuss. Thank you for the info. Good things to hear and think about.
    Just from surfing around, I see what you mean about using my money to actually fly vs. buying all I would need for a sim.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    A very strong second on post #2. Give us more information on the Ultralight. Have you flown the UL? If it is flyable and with your prior experience you should be able to get an hour of two in the C 152 and then use the UL to practice for 2 to three hours. Much better skill building than any desk top simulator for basic flight training.

    Simulators are best for advance flight training and things that are just too dangerous or expensive in the real thing.

  5. #5
    For your PC, the graphics card is likely going to be a performance bottleneck. Most of the smaller PCs have integrated graphics that aren't up to this task, though you may be able to add one. Realistically, unless you're looking at building or speccing out your own machine, you're probably looking at a gaming PC.

    X Plane has display settings you can use to turn down the realism to boost your framerate, and I'm sure the others have similar settings. I used X Plane for procedures practice when doing my instrument training, and still use it occasionally to keep skills sharp.

    I'd say that you're realistically looking at roughly $2k all-in for a system that gets you to a relatively basic level of flight sim. Maybe you can keep those costs to $1500 if you are patient and buy used stuff from ebay. That's probably something like 10-15 hours of actual training with an instructor, right?

    A better approach to finish your rating is to set up your schedule so you can fly at least twice a week for 6 weeks or so. A good CFI can likely get you finished off in that amount of time. If you're lucky, you have a flight school nearby with a Redbird simulator that you can use if the weather's not flyable.

  6. #6
    FlyingRon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    NC26 (Catawba, NC)
    I've never seen a GA simulator that was worth a plug nickel for stick-and-rudder stuff. As Bill points out, it can be handy for learning navigation (pretty much the essentials of the insturment rating course). For that, X-Plane or most of them are reasonable (even the ancient Microsoft Flight Sim worked OK for this). If I were to buy now, I'd be looking hard at TouchTrainer. My neighbor has a PhD from Harvard in flight simulation. I'm waiting to see how her project is coming out (she's going after FAA approval).

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