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PC Flight Simulators - any good for IR practice?

I wonder if I buy some realistic flight simulator accessories (metal yokes/joystick, rudder and throttle) and practice on a software like X-Plane 11 on a PC with an eventual VR headset will help me in any way in learning to better control the real airplane when inadvertently going into IMC weather, or as a helper for my IR course scheduled for this summer?

I’ve noticed the airplanes in the PC simulators these days look pretty realistic and beside the old 6 pack instruments you can also add more modern glass ones, such as Garmin GNS530, which you can actually control like in real life and practice published approaches, departures or holdings with the help of an auto pilot. (or at least that’s how they are advertised)

Any of you tried this and got any positive results?

Last Edited by AlexTB20 at 03 Jun 21:14
LRIA, Romania

I used to write for a PC Flight Simulation magazine for over 13 years and have extensive experience with Microsoft Flight Sim since version 2 up to the last one, FS X. The current version of that is Prepare 3D by Lockheed Martin, who have bought the franchise of Microsoft.

While I have not actively seen a TB20 simulation, I have well over 10k sim hours on the various PC sims of the time and yes, in the hands of a competent pilot who does not look at these products as a game, of course they are very useful, particularly if you upgrade them with controls and pedals. There are people who build whole homecockpits with these simulators, I have flown several of these as well.

That is a Caravelle Simulator driven by X-Plane 10.

The GNS530 is available via Reality XP for the Microsoft/Lockheed sims. I believe there are incarnations for X plane as well, but I never looked at that one too closely, primarily because FS X still is more than enough for what I do.

For IFR training or any training you want to do, such as flying to different places in a sim first before you do it live, it is important to use up to date scenery and nav databases as much as possible. There are some navdata services for the Prepare 3D and FSX line, again, I am not the guy to ask for Xplane, but there should be as well. If you have a good scenery and up to date navdata, training can be vary valuable both IFR and VFR, down to the point where you can have a close look at the airport you want to fly to including ground layout. Most larger airports today do exist either as freeware or payware, also there are photorealistic sceneries available for a lot of areas in Europe.

Flight Simulation can be a hobby in it’s own right. I know quite a few people who went the flight sim way and built themselfs a home cockpit instead of taking up real flying today, due to alll the hassle and cost involved. It is not necessarily cheap if you really make your sim well equipped but it is certainly well worth pursuing.

There is a TB20 product available by Just Flight for Xplane as well as for FSX/Prepare 3D.
https://www.justflight.com/product/tb10-tobago-and-tb20-trinidad-xplane-11
They claim it has a GNS430 included, which would be great if it works the way it should. If not, Flight 1 have a GNS package which does for FSX/Prepare 3D.
http://www.flight1.com/products.asp?product=gnscomplete

I am not sure about Xplane but someone told me it includes a 430 which is updatable by Navigraph. But what I found googling is that there definitly are products for Xplane as well.

Personally I have been at home in the FSX World and stopped upgrading after the mag I wrote for closed down in 2013, but what I hear Prepare 3D is a worthy successor.

What you need to know however is that the PC’s needed to get a good performance are not the usual high street variety but you need a REALLY performant Gaming PC in order to get decent results. Literally books have been written about this. You need the fastest processor you can get, definitlyy a 64 bit system and also a high performance graphic card in order to get good results.

I’d say, go for it. It certainly is not money wasted. How you use it depends on you.

Last Edited by Mooney_Driver at 04 Jun 05:18
LSZH, Switzerland

I played with a sim (FS2000 back then, later FS2004 and later FSX) during my PPL training and found it useful for flying the cross country navs during the PPL course, having of course loaded some detailed scenery. But it was not really useful for aircraft handling which is nowhere near reality.

What I found it extremely useful for was instrument training, for the IMC Rating. It saved me thousands. One should never fly any procedure in the air unless one can fly it on the ground, because in the air you have only a fraction of the brainpower left. I used FS2004 with a cheap £10 F16 yoke It was also good for learning the instrument scan.

I played around with a force feedback stick and found it just a useless toy. I suspect you need to spend serious money to get good feel. Good visuals are nowadays not hard to do.

The most accurate handling sim was X-Plane but back then it was a very bare program.

You will no doubt need a high-end PC with a high-end video card. That was always the case for sims (except for some bare “instrument only” sims) and remains the case today for video editing and playback.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I recently bought a new PC for the purpose of IFR training/currency only. I installed Xplane 11 and added a Mooney Ovation. It is a really good training tool, especially since you can let it work with Skydemon on the Ipad. I’m glad I did this.

EBZW EBST

I’d advise proper testing before buying VR goggles. They are low-res. You can’t read instruments or labels when wearing them unless you zoom in. They also make one tired very quickly. I use them to practice aerobatic routines, which is 5 min flights looking mostly outside. Wouldn’t use them for A to B IFR flying where you look mostly inside and need to flip switches.

EPPO, EPPK

X-Plane 11 on a fast PC is superb for instrument practice.
I would go so far as to say that it’s essential if you’re a serious instrument pilot.
Whilst doing my IR recently, I spent countless hours flying whole routes and numerous procedures on this program – it is staggeringly realistic.
Flight time in the air = £hundreds per hour
Flight time on the PC = £almostnothing
But note – you’ll need a new graphics card – if yours isn’t the latest spec, it just won’t run the program and you’ll get freezing as it can’t keep up.
I have been able to reproduce my own panel (including a Garmin GTN750) on X-Plane and time spent on this is almost as good as the real thing.
Great for ‘getting the hang’ of instruments and for getting back up to speed after time off.
Enjoy!

Biggin Hill EGKB, United Kingdom

Another thumbs up for X-Plane. Note: if you don’t have the very latest PC hardware you can try to download the older versions 9 and 10 that are less power hungry but still do a good job. I find the Carenado aircraft to be very realistic. Don’t teach yourself to fly instruments on the simulator, but consolidate what you learnt with an instructor; Once rated, it is a very valuable tool for currency and practicing new approaches. The link to Skydemon is fabulous.
Note: you can run X-Plane on WIN, MAC and Linux (I do).

EBKT

I have a MacBook Pro model 2017 and I intend to attach an external video card to it, via Thunderbolt cable.

So far, the list for an entry level PC sim for me would be:

MacBook Pro with a 7820HQ CPU and 16GB of RAM
Nvidia GTX 1080ti video card
VIRPIL Mongoos T-50 joystick (Peter’s £10 F16 yoke updated version)
Hotas Warthog Throttle
VKB T-Rudder MKIV rudder pedals
HTC Vive Pro headset for VR

If everything works as advertised, I will probably add a force feedback yoke and move to a desktop system later.

Urs, the Caravelle Simulator looks impressive ;) Thank you for the TB20 links and your response. I wonder if you have tried the new VR headsets, I am sure I am not the only one who’d love to hear your opinion on it, with such an impressive experience with classical sims and hardware…

Last Edited by AlexTB20 at 04 Jun 11:08
LRIA, Romania

I would advise to get your first experience just with the mouse as flight control. I bought a Saitek Yoke, Throttle and Rudder pedals when my daughter learned to fly, after using it a few times, I prefer the non-natural mouse feel to the artificial but dead yoke feel of the Saitek. A lot of the IFR procedures are flown on autopilot anyway.

EBKT

AlexTB20 wrote:

Urs, the Caravelle Simulator looks impressive ;)

It is. Whoever is in the Munich area should treat himself to a ride. It is worth every penny and then some.
“This is them: ":https://www.flycaravelle.com/

Here in ZRH I recently had sessions in a lovely 777 sim run by fly and race. Also a very nice setup running Prepare 3D.

I found the base scenery you get with Xplane VERY impressive on the Caravelle sim.

AlexTB20 wrote:

I wonder if you have tried the new VR headsets, I am sure I am not the only one who’d love to hear your opinion on it, with such an impressive experience with classical sims and hardware…

I have recently in Friedrichshafen and it is the first time in my life that I got sick. Really sick. So they are not for me.

What I use is Track IR. It does almost the same as VR glasses but on your screen. For me, Track IR is the better solution for now, especcially for helicopter flying which I have taken up recently on the sim.

With regard to hardware, I use the CH products Yoke and throttle quadrant and Saitek Pedals. But Saitek is state of the art today, so I can recommend them. I also have a Saitek joystick which I use for everything where a Yoke is unpractical or unrealistic.

You might want to check out Aerosoft, they are the market leader and one-stop shop for everything in Europe. I have known Winfried Diekmann for many years and also quite a few other people there, they also published my book. They are very helpful with beginners looking for advice. You can contact either Nathalie Kindel or William Lennox, tell them I sent you.

I have no experience using a Mac, but this definitly means you need to go the Xplane route, as Prepare 3D is Windows only.

Last Edited by Mooney_Driver at 04 Jun 12:36
LSZH, Switzerland
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