(Photo) My Learjet over my home airport. I will tell about my trip around the world in this beautiful simulated machine one day soon. But now… let’s look at Simulators.
Origins: The military again. I have had the pleasure – a long time ago – of flying the simulators for the F4 Phantom (I did a nice job) and the Vulcan (I crashed it on ‘finals). Developing pilot skills is a risky and very dangerous job when a mistake can cost a life and several million dollars, so simulators were designed. The airlines quickly followed suit.
Mathematical: And Computers. It is relatively easy to convert every aspect of flying into a mathematical model, simulating all the forces and date needed to reproduce a reasonable facsimilie of the experience of flying.
Add in a very good mathematical representation of the entire Planet surface with all the major features of topography, cities, roads, and of course airports, and Robert is your dad’s brother.
Commercial play flight. After the ‘home-computor’ simulator took-off (so to speak) it was not long before an entertainment business could be made. Typically the cost is around $200 for an hour in a realistic cockpit mock-up and business is brisk in pretty well every city in the western world. Even small children can be guided through. Just think what YOU could do.
A home cockpit, for the wealthy enthusiast. My own small effort is a Microsoft Flight Sim (X- or v.Ten) in my ordinary computer, with a mouse, keyboard and a ‘force-feedback’ joystick. It sits on my desk. But some enthusiasts go far better, building their own more realistic environments. Some wealthier souls have moving cockpits with electrically operated servos to lift and tilt.
All aspects training tutorials on FSX. Can’t fly? No problem. The software comes with detailed training exercises. Every aspect is covered. It is quite possible to get within a bull’s roar of qualifying for a licence (with just the mandatory hours added in a real aircraft) sitting at home.
Outside-in / inside out: The simulators used at home had, for a long time, the sort of views that real-world pilots did not have. Views from outside the plane, for example. But the airlines have caught up. Many airlines now have a Tail camera – for passengers AND the pilots. Today’s very long aircraft make ground turning quite difficult. The pilot uses the tail camera to see just where most of the aircraft is in relation to the grass, the taxiway and the runway. Cameras are also positioned underneath to enable the pilot to see that the wheels are off the ground on take-off and safely stowed. They are often too far away to hear. For passengers it enables views that even ten years ago they could not have. Watching themselves land, for instance.
Sail: Aircraft are like boats in some respect. They sail on air. When an aircraft is in motion, especially at speed, it’s leading edges compress the air. Try sticking your head out of a car window at a hundred kilometres an hour and feel just how ‘hard’ that air can be. At 8-900 kmph the air is more like a liquid than a gas and the aircraft rides on it. Up there one finds ‘Waves’ of differing air density and of course ‘currents’. Most airliners fly at a height that penetrates and uses the Jet Streams at 25000-40,000 feet, sometimes gaining an extra 200 kmph.
But heck, the object is sheer Fun ! My good friend Rod Davi flies out of Rio’s city airport, Santos Dumont. The views are stunning. The personal and commercial (flt training) use of cameras in the cockpit has exploded in the past five years or so. Couple that with some creative licence and we have this sort of thing. Wonderful.
Mix the two, air and sea, and have a lap around the boat. This last one is for James. The real thing.