Friday, May 19, 2006

Flying the pattern

Flight Simulator lets you do all sorts of exotic things-- fly unusual or historic airplanes, visit foreign lands, try dangerous things. But the funny thing is that one of the activities that gives me the most satisfaction is pattern flying (pattern flying means flying in a rectangular route around the airport, and is used for landing and touch-and-goes). I do this all the time and it never gets boring. Its not exactly the same all the time, because I will frequently change the airplane, the traffic, or the weather. But even when I fly my "regular" flight (same plane, same conditions) its still a lot of fun.

I think this bears tribute to how well the product has captured the real experience. (I speak as one who has not piloted a plane in real life). What I mean is that it has created a space to develop one's skills, and that space is large enough to contain most of the things that concern the real world pilot. For example, all of the instruments the real pilot needs to keep an eye on are there in front of you, and more or less faitfully reproduced. One also needs to take into acount the current weather conditions. If you like, you can fly with other traffic, and use the radio to communicate with the tower or with other pilots on that frequency. This level of complexity means that one can spend hour after hour perfecting one's technique.

Perhaps part of the allure for me is that the airport I do most of my virtual flying from the one closest to my actual home. It is a small airstrip with a 1600 foot runway, and tall trees on one end. This makes every sucessful landing a small accomplishment.

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