Microsoft Flight Sim as Learning Tool?

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Can a video game (albeit a pretty sophisticated video game) make you a better pilot? Bruce Williams thinks so and he's written the book on the subject, called Microsoft Flight Simulator as a Training Aid. Williams, a 30-year pilot and instructor who was also the business development director for Microsoft Flight Simulator, told a news conference at AOPA Expo that the software package can be a powerful training tool if it's used to focus on specific topics in a logical order. "Using the parts is better than trying to use the whole," he said. Williams said the tendency is to try and create a complete flying experience with the simulator when it's greatest training strengths lie in the details. In addition to the written word, Williams has included a CD with hundreds of "practice flights" which teach a specific skill or range of knowledge. For instance, one lesson focuses on VOR navigation with specific tasks to accomplish.

Williams said the simulator can't replace stick time, especially for new students. "There are motor skills that just have to be learned," he said. But for training in navigation and procedures, the simulator is an ideal platform to practice without burning $4-a-gallon fuel. It's also a more efficient way to train for those skills. Instead of taking all the time to preflight, taxi and take off, the simulator can start flying right at the location where the training will take place. "You go straight to the task," he said. The book and CD are compatible with Flight Simulator X and Flight Simulator 2004 and he recommends the deluxe version of the latest issue because it offers options to add a second pilot networked to the same scenario, either by cable or over the Internet. It also includes a full Garmin glass cockpit depiction. Williams' book will be available through Aviation Supplies and Academics and at national chain bookstores.