How can a flight simulator be any useful?

  1. An accelerating aircraft, in whatever direction, will move long distances. A flight simulator cannot move long distances. Therefore it cannot simulate acceleration correctly. Only slight deviations and turbulence can be simulated correctly.

    So what use can a flight simulator be, in training jet pilots? It's sophisticated manouvres that need to be experienced by jet pilots, and a flight simulator just can't do them.

    The computer part with the display is certainly useful, but the mechanical part seems such an aweful waste of money.
  2. jcsd
  3. turbo

    turbo 7,063
    Gold Member

    It is cheaper to use a flight simulator to train pilots than to allow them to crash multi-million-dollar jets.
  4. russ_watters

    Staff: Mentor

    The mechanical part simulates accelerations in different directions by leaning over. Lean back and it feels like you are accelerating forward. Lean forward and it feels like you are decelerating.
  5. That explains it. Except that the process of rotating the cockpit involves an acceleration itself, can this match the experience of the real thing?
  6. And how does it match the acceleration component in the vertical direction?
  7. Thanks for the advise, except this is about the mechanical part (it seems very inaccurate). Might as well just use Microsoft Flight Simulator with better joysticks and pedals. That would save your multi-million-dollar jet too.
  8. turbo

    turbo 7,063
    Gold Member

    You don't get rocked or tilted when you use a software-only simulator, and you will miss some real feedback.
  9. Now I had another thought. Humans can only sense jerk, it's much harder to sense slight accelerations that are constant because they feel like weight that we feel anyway at all times. I wonder if this is the trick that makes a simulator useful, imitating jerk in intervals.
  10. Danger

    Danger 9,663
    Gold Member

    I've flown or been a passenger in a fair number of planes. The most intense 'flight' that I've ever been through was 'The Star Trek Experience' at the Las Vegas Hilton. The 'shuttle' that you ride in is built on a B1 bomber simulator. The damned thing is capable of 7 g's. Of course, they keep it down-tuned for passenger safety, but there are still all kinds of warnings against people with various medical conditions from boarding. Not for one second do you doubt that you're in a real vehicle doing really rude manoeuvres. The wrap-around video screens certainly enhance that feeling.
  11. For training pilots, visual only flight simulators are good enough. In the case of a large commercial aircraft, the g-forces aren't that high so it's not an issue. In the case of experienced fighter pilots, some high g manuevers in a simulator can result in the pilots getting "lack of motion sickness" since their brains now expect a certain feel.

    So the simulators are good for learning to use the instruments, and especially landings. I don't think the simulators are used much, if any, for learning to dog fight.
  12. FredGarvin

    FredGarvin 5,084
    Science Advisor

    The things a flight simulator teach ARE NOT the maneuvers for dogfighting, etc...Flight simulators provide an excellent source for flight time to perfect things that you don't see in your video game world. In the real world, any pilot has to do things like navigate, take off and land in any kind of weather. That means not only VFR but IFR. Also, there are these little things called emergencies. If you put someone in the cockpit of a 100 million dollar aircraft, they had better know what the heck to do when all of their hydraulic and electrical systems go belly up at the same time. There are hundreds of emergency scenarios that a pilot has to know instinctively how to handle in a split second (and then back it up with the checklist).

    The experience of feeling accelerations is minuscule to the overall workload of having to fly an aircraft. If that were all there were to flying, the only thing we would see were centrifuges.
  13. russ_watters

    Staff: Mentor

    It can't match it, only approximate it.
  14. So how do you reckon this illusion is achieved, from a physics point of view? And perhaps a physiology point of view too, the ears have got balance sensors in them.
  15. Dunno what VFR and IFR stand for, but have you played with any recent simulations? Even Google Earth has a actual flight simulator built in (ctrl-alt-A), so you can navigate in great detail over any place on the planet, even a real aeroplane can't do that. Also I don't see why there would be no simulation for weather too and how it affects landing in those extremely expensive machines for jet pilots.
  16. VFR - visual flight rules, IFR - instrument flight rules. IFR applies when a pilot can't see a horizon, or a runway during a landing. Depending on the aircraft, there's a minimum ceiling of visibility requirement before landing is allowed.
  17. FredGarvin

    FredGarvin 5,084
    Science Advisor

    I guess I don't understand what you are asking with your question. What does Google Earth have to do with this? My whole point was that simulators DO provide a tool to practice and keep up one's training in other situations other than "dog fighting."
  18. Danger

    Danger 9,663
    Gold Member

    It's actually explained by neurology rather than physics; the brain is easy to fool. It can continue to experience a sensory input as long as nothing specifically negates it. You can try it yourself quite easily. The next time that you're a passenger in a car, close your eyes half-way through a curve. You'll think that you're turning continuously until you open your eyes.
  19. russ_watters

    Staff: Mentor

    Any good flight simulator incorporates weather simulation. Even most PC based ones.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2008
  20. Trust me Russ. Google Earth has a flight simulation built in.

    Just press ctrl-alt-A.
  21. Now I get your point Fred. It wasn't clear before, thanks for clarifying. Google Earth was mentioned to say how easy it is to simulate navigation, in answer to the (mis-perceived from me) claim that one needs the real thing to practice navigation.


    So this is about the mechanical part only, the physical oil-pistons underneath or whatever they are called. Maybe we should put it in the title, because some don't have the time to read everything:

    "How can the mechanical part of a flight simulator be any useful, when it cannot match the real acceleration?"

    And the answer to this illusion seems to be neurological.

    I'll try closing my eyes at a turn with my car and see how it feels. I reckon it will be identical to driving on a sideways-sloping road.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2008
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