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Joined: Mon Dec 15, 2014 1:40 am

What is the best flight simulator for a student pilot?

Sat May 13, 2017 4:30 am

Hey folks,

With the advances in today's technology, several flight simulators are available. I've started ground school this last week, and I'm looking for your thoughts on the best simulator and why. I currently have X-Plane 10, but if you recommend another sim for student pilots, such as X-Plane 11, Prepar3D or Flight Simulator X, I'd definitely look into it.

Thanks in advance.
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Re: What is the best flight simulator for a student pilot?

Sat May 13, 2017 1:55 pm

Are we talking an eventual commercial pilot here, or just a PPL? In case of the former, I would suggest FSX or the P3D for the instrument flight training part.
Haven't tried X-plane, some say it mimics actual flying qualities quite well. Alas, I found them all to be more or less crap when it came to actual flying properties. They didn't really offer anything useful that would have aided me in the real aircraft.
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Joined: Wed Jun 15, 2005 2:33 pm

Re: What is the best flight simulator for a student pilot?

Thu May 18, 2017 4:27 am

Here's the challenge with going from a sim flyer to real-world flying (and I say this as someone who is working on his Commercial/CFI, and spent an inordinate amount of time on Flight Sim as a teenager):

Most people who transition from the sims to real-world don't develop the proper scanning techniques outside the cockpit. Because we're so accustomed to flying on instruments in the game, it can be extremely difficult to get student pilots' heads outside the cockpit and using attitude flying and good traffic scans.

Here's my advice: if you're serious about getting a PPL, skip the sim. It can be done, but I don't recommend trying. I was one of the "lucky" ones who had no issues transferring from the sim to the outside world, simply because above all else, I love the view, but for every one of me there's 10 who struggle (not trying to brag at all, just telling it like it is).

The sim can be a terrific way to chair fly instrument procedures and scanning techniques if you move on to your instrument, but even then, use it for workflows and instrument cross-check rather than as a true substitute. Tuning NAV radios, identifying VORs, practicing DME arcs, etc. can all be done to a certain extent with a sim. Even flying instrument approaches with real world charts can work, if you change your view such that you can't see outside.

You'll notice that almost none of those are things you work on as a private student, and that's with good reason. If you can't navigate by pilotage and dead reckoning, relying only on the GPS you're screwed if you lose your electrical system.

I'd say the only real benefit to a private student is instrument familiarization, but beyond that, you're likely to do more harm than good.

And trust me, I say that as someone who completely understands just wanting to immerse yourself in flying. It's all I wanted to do when I was a private student.

Listen to LiveATC (download the app and listen to it when you're driving instead of music). The biggest thing student pilots struggle with is ATC communcations.

Good luck! Feel free to ping me if you have more questions as you go through your training. I should have my CFI in about a month.

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