Becoming a pilot: it’s a boy’s dream. But for most of us, including me, it never becomes a reality. My professional career too happened to be less exciting 😉
Thanks to the outstanding development of flight simulator software for the PC, the wannabe pilot today can explore the skies to his heart’s content.
Although I was around when the company Sublogic launched its elementary flight simulator for the vintage Commodore C64, my real interest rose only in the last decade or so.
Initially I started out with Microsoft’s FSX simulator but as soon as the 64-bit version of Lockheed’s P3D platform went on sale I switched to it. With what is probably a ton of addons I try to practice both general aviation and commercial aviation as professionally as the simulator allows.
When you want to master all that flying by the book you are facing a pretty steep learning curve. Lots of textbooks were studied and soon I also took classes on how to manage the software.
From the beginning, my approach was to study theory first before even try to crank up the engine of a small general aviation plane.
With the indispensable help of the Dutch Flight Academy, I learned the basics of a single-engine Cessna C172. For more than a year, I took online courses every Tuesday afternoon with these motivating hobbyists. Both theory and practice were covered.
Hundreds of hours were well spent learning to master the cockpit knobs, reading charts and weather reports as well as getting acquainted with the basic flying manoeuvres.
I would only recommend the Dutch Flight Academy courses but unfortunately they no longer seem to be offering these services.
Soon I joined the International Virtual Aviation Organisation – IVAO.
After successful completion of both the theoretical and practical examination during which I had to perform a VFR (Visual Flight Rule) flight taking the single-engine Cessna C172 from Antwerp to Kortrijk, I continued studying the textbooks to understand the IFR (Instrument Flight Rule) techniques.
These IFR techniques were flown with a twin-engine Cessna C310 and Baron.
The Sky is The Limit
At some point I felt confident enough to add some larger airliners to my hangar. Having flown the challenging versions of the Cessna’s I decided to continue that road by purchasing Boeing and Airbus airliners. The PMDG Boeing products are widely recognized for their study level and detail.
Furthermore, I joined the Flight Simulator Club Belgium and the KLM Virtual Airline.
But how do you handle a jetliner? Manuals can hold thousands of pages. YouTube became my companion. However, one has to be careful as some guys consider themselves state of the art pilots but just offer some crap tutorials in reality.
When it comes to Airbus, one stands out of the crowd. Cpt. Ingo, a real life German speaking A320 captain, offers a complete (and free!) A320 type rating course. The series consists of countless hours of videos. Want to fly the Airbus? Look no further!
Private Pilot (PPL) lessons are also offered for free. Overall, Cpt. Ingo shares a wealth of information with the deserving. Thumbs up!
Those who don’t master Goethe’s language, may find some lessons at Airline2Sim. Their Boeing 777, a wide body long haul aircraft, tutorials are pretty decent.
Today, I mostly fly online through the IVAO network. This community with more than 250,000 members hosts not only virtual pilots but also air traffic controllers. Thanks to their guidance we can make exciting flights from a to z. Of course, we then use flight plans, real weather, etc.
Online events are also regularly organized.