Tuesday, September 05, 2006

My take on Real vs Sim

OK, now that I have extensive experience in real-world flying I can make some comparisons. Wait a minute-- I only have the half-hour intro flight. But first impressions are very important, and my intro flight was nothing but first impressions, so I can offer this fresh perspective.

I've spent a lot of time wondering how close or far I was from the real thing, when flying the sim. Here are some thoughts.

View: the panel (in the 172) sits much higher than a car dashboard, but you can still see the runway very clearly. I've never understood why I always have to "raise my seat" in the sim to get a similar view--why does the default view not have the runway visible? I know what I am supposed to see now. Anyway, I understand why it is so difficult to present all this on a computer monitor that is typically too small, and not tall enough. The ideal monitor for flightsimming would be square, I think.

Ambiance: I have heard people comment how small these planes are. Fortunately I got to fly in the 172, not the smaller 152. Perhaps because I was prepared for small, I thought the 172 felt pretty roomy, all in all. It is more snug than a small car (for example, my Ford Focus feels much larger) but I did not feel cramped. As for the noise, the engine was loud, but it was possible to hold a conversation without the headphones. The cockpit felt spartan but rugged. The airspeed indicator looked less real than the one in the simulator. I mean, the face looked like a piece of carboard! But I trust it did the job.

G effects: After I brought up the subject of turn coordination, my instructor gave a little demonstration of slip and skid, and I finally got the famous "seat of the pants" feeling of which I have read much. But, I was suprised how slight this feeling was. Still, I can imagine that it is enough of a sensation that you could coordinate turns based on it (along with the all-important look out the window). Much more noticible was the feel when a large throttle change was made. I had not previously appreciated this. Though, I must say, this is modeled well in FSX, at least from the demo.

Ease of flying: It seems much easier in the real thing, mostly because of the view. Much easier to know where you are in relation to the airport. I think with all the visibility and other feedback it would be a breeze to do a VFR flight in good weather.

Landing: I often wondered if something is left out of landings in the sim. When I make a good one, there is no real bump. But I was amazed at how smooth it felt in the real thing. No doubt this had something to do with my instructor's skill, but still, there was no bump at all. Those landing gear are very well designed. The wheel noise (also the flaps)is much louder in the sim, but I accept this is a reasonable accomodation.

(I could probably say more if I had time. I have to add on a personal note that I won't have a lot of time for this blog in the next couple of months. I am training for my first marathon (see my other blog) and the training is getting more busy. I will not have much time for the FS blog or even (alas!) FS'ing.)

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