Personal Flight Simulator

Huh??!! They say on the news that the pilot of that plane that vanished had his own flight simulator in his home. Huh?! I thought simulators were ungodly expensive hunks of equipment (at least ones suitable for practicing real flight). Explain?

You can roll your own with a few monitors, some joysticks/flight yokes, pedals, and even virtual cockpit gauges if you really want to make them.

If you have a capable computer already, you could get a pretty decent sim setup for a few hundred dollars of equipment. The software doesn’t cost much, either. It’s mostly the time investment.

That won’t get you the hydraulic motion, etc. of the fancier industrial sims, but still enough to fool around with.

I more or less realize that, but what the pilot has is something that the authorities are VERY interested in, to the extent that they are getting help from the FBI to undelete files. I guess the question is what is the point of a simulator of a similar order of complexity to the one the pilot had?

Fsx (and x plane I guess) can get very real and complex. Depending on what you’re interested in, atc, weather systems, terrain maps, photorealistic mapping, near perfect replication of the planes themselves (check out PMDG) down to each switch.
Then comes flight planning, this can also be simulated and loaded into the simulated plane systems.

My guess, they’re trawling through fsx flight plans and previous flight logs to see what exactly he was simulating.

Personal enjoyment probably.

You could go on a flight simulator forum and find a hundred other setups equally or more complex.

Doubt they care much about the technology. They probably just want to figure out which terrain sets were loaded, which airports he practiced landing at, which sort of equipment failures he might’ve simulated, etc. In short, where he might’ve gone and how he got there.

How sophisticated are mid- to high-end gaming rigs compared to military/industrial flight simulators of the past?

Take a cutting (but not necessarily bleeding) edge gaming machine, something put together with parts bought from Newegg. Load it up with retail, non-proprietary software and fly away. Hydraulic shakey-shakes and fully custom interiors aside, how does this flight simulator compare to what pilots were training on in the mid-80s? I doubt they were training on TRS-80s CoCos or C=64s, but I can’t imagine today’s commercial hardware doesn’t dance around the highest end equipment from back then.

If that assumption is reasonable, what’s the cut-off? Is a desktop FS ‘better’ than an Air Force or airline FS from 1995? 2000?

Here’s a relevant thread from the past. Maybe Johnny LA or another pilot can chime if they see this.

The utility of a really good flight sim is more as a procedural trainer than anything else. Most of the time spent in an airline simulator is in thick cloud, at night, practicing emergencies. The major difference between a real flight sim and a play flight sim is the real one has a fully functioning cockpit, not just a reasonable facsimile, it has an instructor station so the instructor can control the sequences flown, it sits up on hydraulic jacks so it moves enough to give you the physical sensation of flying, and finally and most importantly, it is certified by the authorities as being close enough in fidelity to the real aeroplane that it actually counts as time in the real aeroplane.

The actual computing power of a home PC is streets ahead of what older full motion flight sims have, but computing power is not an important factor.

The flight sim the B777 captain had was an interesting toy that would not be out of place in the homes of many aviation enthusiasts. The interest in it is because it might give clues as to what the captains plan was. This is only relevant if it turns out to be perpetrated by the captain though.

Yeah, an at-home simulator setup isn’t all that uncommon for people interested in flying. You can practice approaches using true-to-life waypoints, GPS, etc.

On a related note, this sort of thing isn’t just limited to aviation. Lots of railroad enthusiasts have train simulators set up at home–some are limited to a couple of monitors paired with a RailDriver USB controller, but others are complete, down to the air gauges and control stand (one company bought an old locomotive’s engineer’s control stand and took casts of each part; they now sell copies of the parts for at-home builders.)

Nitpick: What you’re describing is a motion-base simulator, but there are also professional fixed-base simulators that are not mounted on hydraulic jacks and don’t move.

Interesting! Thanks! Shows how much I don’t know about such things.

The difference is the accuracy of the simulations.
A commercial flight simulator will rpobably try to mimic not just motion, but the relative response of the controls. Pull back this far, at this speed, the plane responds thus.

Game-type flight simulators might be able to mimic the basics - pull back, go up. Pull back 50% go up 33%; left rudder 10%, rate one turn. But since the yoke and pedals might be something bought at Best Buy, there’s no easy way to “tune” them.

The peole who sell the software might have tried to get the response of the “aircraft” realistic, but not necessarily to the degree than a $10,000/hr hydraulic flight simulator would.

So you can practice, say, landing in a stiff crosswind or practice extreme fuel conservation. It might be accurate, but is not guaranteed the way a giant commercial one would be. If you are just practising navigation processes, it would probably be more than adequate.

As for the MH370 case, it’s entirely possible they guy was simply running uot of disk space or doing a routine regular cleanup; or his software automatically clears any cache over x weeks old. We just have to wait and see what they say.

The ‘motion’ capability really doesn’t add much value to the simulation compared to its expense. The real value is in duplicating the cockpit environment in terms of displays and switches and visual cues.

Yes true. There is actually a broad range of trainers available from PC based “synthetic trainers” to full motion flight simulators. A synthetic trainer is used to simulate instrument flight and can be very basic compared to a flight sim game but it is approved for training pilots in instrument flight. The other end of the spectrum, the full motion simulator can be used to endorse a pilot on an aircraft type without the pilot having to fly the real aeroplane at all. Then some full motion sims aren’t quite close enough to the real thing and most of the training can be done in the simulator but it must be finished off with a few circuits in the real aeroplane. What it boils down to in the end is that a professional simulator has been approved as being legal for training to a certain level.

As MD2000 says, the accuracy of flight sim games can be hit and miss. Even the add-ons that include meticulously reproduced fully working cockpit panels and controls (as on screen displays, not physical objects) don’t necessarily get the flying right. Back when I flew Dash 8s I had a dash 8 add-on for FS2004. It was quite good but it was obvious that the people who created it had never flown a Dash 8. The pitch attitudes for various speeds were wrong, the amount of deflection available from the nose wheel was wrong, the behavior of the flight director wasn’t right etc. it was interesting and fun but firmly in the game category.