Microsoft Flight Simmer takes a real flight lesson

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by Sudburian, Mar 14, 2021.

  1. Sudburian

    Sudburian Pre-Flight

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    Thanks to an incredibly gracious offer by a fellow POA user I had contacted through this very forum--we both live in Arizona and he is a CFI--I received my first 4.1 hours of logged flight instruction time today. I've been a moderately avid user of Microsoft Flight Simulator (and X-Plane) since the age 10, when my dad first installed an IBM PC in our house that came with MSFS software loaded up on a bunch of weird-looking, large, floppy disks. Decades later, after using Microsoft's most recent version of FS (which has incredible and mind-blowing graphics by the way) I finally took the plunge and enrolled in Sporty's online ground school with the intention of obtaining a PPL, and have gotten about 25% through that. I also read several pages of reading assignments in advance of today's flight.

    My POA friend had me sit on the left side. The airplane was a 1969 Cessna Cardinal 177. He performed the take-offs and landings. While at a comfortable and safe altitude, he turned the controls over to me to perform several controlled turns, ascents, descents, and work on maintaining level flight. I also got lots of introductory practice to taxiing, which seemed harder for me than actually flying the plane. We flew from KFFZ (Mesa, Arizona) south to KAVQ (Marana, a suburb of Tucson), back up north to land at KCGZ (Casa Grande), before heading back to KFFZ. I also got plenty of excellent instruction and demonstration of pre-flight inspection procedures, fuel management, flight briefings, and more.

    Did almost 40 years of flight simming help me?

    Probably not except at the most introductory level for purely academic concepts. Sure, I know what the throttle does already in concept, but I had zero muscle memory on whether pulling it or pushing it increases or decreases power. In fact, I increased when I wanted to decrease and vice versa several times in the beginning. Use of the rudder is another stunning difference between simming and flying, because in the sim you can almost forget that there even is a rudder. A novice simmer who is not intentionally trying to fly realistically will never, in fact, bother using the rudder while turning. You just point the joystick in the direction you want to go and the ailerons do their thing. The average non-pilot simmer will not notice the effects of adverse yaw, and therefore will not care about it, ever. Although the sim does force you to use the rudder to taxi, the average simmer hits a button to automatically appear on the runway ready to take off. The rudder is an after-thought. Now, suddenly, I can barely maneuver the airplane without figuring out how to operate it, much less with my feet.

    Most jarring, obviously, is the feeling of flying that simming can never compete with, except I assume for high-end professional simulators used to train real pilots. Although the air was moderately good today in Arizona, there were enough "bumps" to get my attention. Keeping the plane straight and level required constant attention and input, far more than what's needed with an MSFS flight, most of which we sim fans fly heavily on autopilot anyway.

    MSFS is a huge help in a couple of regards that might give me advantages over other student pilots. From the moment I climbed into the plane I was instantly very much at home with the entire dashboard, especially of a Cessna Cardinal which is very similar to the classic Cessna 172 used in MSFS. An airplane dashboard is intimidating to most non-pilots, and would probably freak me out if I'd never seen it before. But everything was immediately familiar and recognizable. One of my favorite aspects of simming is using old-school navigation techniques, so I sim a lot using ADF, DME, and VOR technology even when flying planes with glass cockpits. So there were my old friends, right where I expected them to be: the VOR dials, communication and frequency panels, the numbers on them, etc.

    Thanks for reading. Sorry for length. I'll keep this thread up over time as a journal of sorts as I progress with my instruction. And many thanks again to my fellow POAer who generously and patiently showed me the ropes.
     
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  2. Ryan F.

    Ryan F. Cleared for Takeoff

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    Interesting write-up. Thanks for sharing.

    The sim experience may be a little more helpful if you eventually get an instrument rating. The concepts will be a little easier to assimilate. Still, to your point, the physical interaction with the panel (part of the flight deck - rather than the "dashboard"), the kinesthetic elements of bouncing around in the atmosphere and the sensory overload of all the inputs - noise, instructor comments, the view outside, the panel inside - contribute to an experience which is impossible to replicate on a computer screen.
     
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  3. Sudburian

    Sudburian Pre-Flight

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    You articulated this much better than I can (and thanks for the correction--I'm giving away my student status by referring to a dashboard).

    Notably, you can now use virtual reality headsets to fly on Microsoft Flight Simulator, which is a major technological advancement in software that did not exist barely 6 months ago. That actually ups the ante slightly in the sense of realism. But of course it's still no substitute at all.
     
  4. JeffY

    JeffY Filing Flight Plan

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    Well said and I’m in the same boat. Been simming for the same length of time and even built a VR cockpit with all the high end controls. I finally started working towards my PPL and aside from knowing what most of the instruments meant I had no idea what I was doing. My attempt at taxiing for the first time was comically awful and if I were in a car instead of a plane with an instructor I probably would have been given a field sobriety test.

    Xplane and MSFS2020 have mostly been ruined for me now except as a means to practice startup procedures and eventually train for my instrument rating.
     
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  5. RyanB

    RyanB Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    Congrats, @Sudburian ! I’m a firm believer in MSFS, as I had a set-up at home for years before I ever took my first lesson. Of course it didn’t help me fly the real airplane <well, maybe it did a little> but it made me much more familiar with the cockpit once I got in. Things just seemed to come naturally, since I had simulated it for so long.
     
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  6. Sudburian

    Sudburian Pre-Flight

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    You made me lol. I was actually really bad at taxiing even within MSFS2020. So your description of what looks like DUI driving absolutely applies to me also. I will need a lot of practice.
     
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  7. programmerpilot

    programmerpilot Filing Flight Plan

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    I started on MSFS / x plane also, but invested in more equipment before my first flight lesson. I had a yoke, throttle quadrant, and rudder pedals and practiced on them extensively, doing traffic patterns at my home airport and takeoffs / landings. I had the honeycomb yoke and quadrant, which means I had a trim wheel, flaps lever, and buttons on the yoke to practice with.

    I think having all three primary flight control inputs helped dramatically, I did my first flight back in December and the instructor could tell I had some experience, since I had no trouble trimming the plane. I struggled a little with the rudder though, since my rudder pedals at home don't feel like the ones in a plane. However, with some input following, he did let me do most of the pattern and land the plane!

    I only have 2.5 hours in a real 172, and am stuck working my medical due to ADHD. Until I get certified, I'm gonna keep simming.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2021
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  8. GMascelli

    GMascelli En-Route

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    @Sudburian, Congrats!

    Thanks for sharing the transition experience from sim to reality. looking forward to your progress.
     
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  9. JeffY

    JeffY Filing Flight Plan

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    Ah you’ll be fine; my taxiing was dramatically better during my second flight and I didn’t even have to think about it on the third. Good tip from my CFI was to lightly tap one brake to start a turn from a dead stop if needed, but really it became a nonissue after I was comfortable enough with adding more throttle so I actually had some momentum to work with.

    Trying to practice in MSFS with my rudder pedals was completely useless since it didn’t feel anything like the real thing. I’m probably worse in the game now :D
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2021
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  10. Iceman21

    Iceman21 Pre-Flight

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    Great write up! Welcome to the flying club.

    I do have one correction though, you said dashboard. It's not a car, it's a plane and planes have panels. I couldn't help myself!

    Do you plan on continuing your flight training?

    Sent from my SM-N986U using Tapatalk
     
  11. Sudburian

    Sudburian Pre-Flight

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    I accept your correction but someone actually beat you to the punch. :)

    Yes, I do plan on continuing and am working through Sporty's online ground school at the moment. Still pondering decisions about which flight school, aircraft options, etc.
     
  12. Iceman21

    Iceman21 Pre-Flight

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    Damn, I flew right passed that sentence lol.

    I'll leave this advice as an instructor. A plane is a plane. Depending on your area (looks like the Mesa/Phoenix area), I'd go and interview instructors. Find the instructor that is going to mentor you, not the guy/gal who will get you done the fastest. If you get done quickly great, but that shouldn't be the goal. The goal should be to become the master of that airplane. To become an aviator, rather than a pilot. The value paid for in the beginning should be your instructor, NOT the airplane with the cool stuff. You can rent those when you have your cert.

    I know my words sound grandiose, and maybe they are, but I enjoy teaching and mentoring new aviators. Why? Because my main instructor mentored me.

    Sent from my SM-N986U using Tapatalk
     
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  13. woodchucker

    woodchucker Pattern Altitude

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    My wife got tired of watching me throwing money at sim stuff and RC planes and asked me why I just didn’t go get my pilot license. Got it back in 2015 and here I am nearly 300 hours later in a flying club checked out in five different aircraft and having a ball.

    I did continue using the sim (MSFX at the time) during my training by voice recording the lessons and then listening while re-flying them in the sim. Helped quite a bit with the radio calls and procedure stuff. I’ve also started my instrument and it’s super valuable there.

    Enjoy the ride!
     
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  14. Deelee

    Deelee Cleared for Takeoff

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    Cool write-up and that is especially great to hear that someone on this forum gave you your first hours of dual. Welcome to the addiction... er club.

    Just because you are flying for realz now doesn't mean you have to give up simming... There are days when life gets in the way and I can't fly, so I will still fire up xplane in VR, pop on VATSIM and file (virtual) IFR. Plus it provides a great source of humor for my wife.... (...."you in there talking to yourself again?? LOLOL!!")
     
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  15. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Have her come in and start bitchin’ at ya in the background. “if you don’t get out of there right now, then you can just sleep in there to.” Stuff like that. Give the VATSIM dude a little entertainment.
     
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  16. Sudburian

    Sudburian Pre-Flight

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    Haha! I actually intend on preparing myself for ATC communication by signing up for VATSIM first. I never actually tried it in the past, but it is probably a fantastic way for real student pilots to get started on ATC.
     
  17. Sudburian

    Sudburian Pre-Flight

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    This is a really fantastic idea. As it is right now, I do find MSFS to be helpful in digesting concepts like pattern landings (MSFS isn't necessarily effective at teaching the concept, but it does aid in properly digesting the concept after it has been properly taught in the real world).
     
  18. Deelee

    Deelee Cleared for Takeoff

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    I didn't start out using it - I learned to fly from a Class D under the DC SFRA... always on with ATC even VFR - but after getting my IR, it sort of scratches the itch to talk to someone when filing a flight plan... The kids who do the controlling are actually pretty good.
     
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  19. woodchucker

    woodchucker Pattern Altitude

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    Once you get into flying you will find that landing a real plane is easier than the sim. Use it for the procedures. Airspeed, flap setting, carb heat if applicable, etc etc.

    I bought a pigtail that plugs into my headset cable and a digital voice recorder. Easy peasy.
     
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  20. William Pete Hodges

    William Pete Hodges Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I enjoyed your writeup and am happy you decided to try flying for real. One thing FltSim is very useful for is learning the basics of navigation. When I was starting that phase of my training I pre-flew all my solo XCs on FltSim to get a better idea what I would be seeing in real life. It can prepare you to find your way out of being lost if you use it right. I initially had trouble with VOR navigation and spent a lot of time figuring it out. With my GPS I don't use it much now but I still remember the lessons I learned.
     
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  21. Sudburian

    Sudburian Pre-Flight

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    Lesson #2

    After a brief pause while I researched instructors and juggled a few scheduling considerations around, I went up for my second flight lesson today. We departed from Scottsdale, KSDL, practiced some straight and level flight, easy turns, did an introduction to sharp turns and slow flight, introduced me to autopilot, and flew over some spectacular sights near Arizona's famous Superstition Mountains before landing back at KSDL.

    The instructor had me take off partially on my own: he handled the rudder but had me handle the throttle and yoke. The take-off experience was probably aided quite a bit by MS Flight Simulator. Because I had done it hundreds of times in the sim, what might have been my anxiety level at the mere thought of doing this event myself was a lot lower. Again, I emphasize, it did not "train" me in any way for the sensory overload of the experience, or for the needed muscle memory (which remains zero). But when the instructor told me I am aiming for 55 knots to take off, that was a familiar goal notched into my brain. Seeing the airspeed indicator increasing up to 55 was also a familiar sight. The notion of slightly lifting on the yoke was, again, familiar.

    I had even practiced this very take-off routine, from the same airport, in the same direction. I've purchased a graphics add-on so that simming in the Phoenix area is ultra-realistic. I knew exactly what the visual looked like, taking off from either of the two runway directions. This, again, helped calm my nerves for the real thing. The take-off felt smooth and very comfortable.

    I can sense one tangible negative effect of simming a lot before real-flying: in the sim there is no danger to staring at your instruments all day long. You can try to fly like a real VFR pilot if you're a real pilot, and it would work, but non-pilots have no idea what this means. So when I have simmed, I am practically glued to the airspeed, the bank angle, the VS indicator, the altimeter, with the visual horizon cues only playing a minor role while I reach cruising altitude. After two lessons, I have seen that this has created a tendency in me that takes a bit of effort to undo while I get used to flying with my eyes first, and the instruments later. I don't think it's a serious problem but it's something to think about for any simmer who wants to start flying.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2021
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  22. PeterNSteinmetz

    PeterNSteinmetz Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    This is indeed a very common problem with people who have simmed a lot when they do primary training. They look at the instruments too much.

    If you really need to break yourself of that, take a flight with them covered sometime. Look outside at the horizon!
     
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  23. David Megginson

    David Megginson Cleared for Takeoff

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    Congrats! I had a similar experience in 2002 when I took my first intro flight. I'd not only been using consumer flight sims for well over a decade, but I'd helped write them (I did a lot of the early work on the Open Source FlightGear sim). My first intro flight was also a jarring experience — you're absolute right about muscle memory and control feel — but over time, the theoretical background did start to pay off, especially when I got to IFR training. It just takes time to connect the dots between what you learn in the sim and what you experience in the noisy, cramped, vibrating environment of the cockpit.

    One thing I'd advise every simmer who's thinking of really flying is to apply some winds and turbulence in the settings. If the plane flies more-or-less straight with your hands off the controls (and no A/P), then you're not really learning much.
     
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  24. David Megginson

    David Megginson Cleared for Takeoff

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    Yes, instrument fixation is a big problem for those of us who started on home sims (especially without wrap-around displays). I strongly recommend ordering a copy of Wolfgang Langwiesche's classic book Stick and Rudder, which shows how to use the angles, etc, you're seeing outside the window to get the same information. Then, when you go back to your home sim, practice flying a plane with minimal instrumentation, like a J3 Cub.
     
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  25. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach

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    A POA "friend", located at FFZ, with a Cardinal...I guess it wasn't you Peter.
     
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  26. Sudburian

    Sudburian Pre-Flight

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    Hah, I was not exactly trying to hide Peter's identity but I wrote my original post without at least checking with him first, so I opted not to use his name in it.
     
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  27. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach

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    Oh, so it WAS Peter. ;)
     
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  28. Sudburian

    Sudburian Pre-Flight

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    I appreciate the tip. I wish it was on Kindle but I guess it's appropriate that I should have to read it the old school way. En route from Amazon.
     
  29. PeterNSteinmetz

    PeterNSteinmetz Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    Just don’t pay much attention to what Langewische has to say about the use of rudder. It seems he was a big fan of the Ercoupe.
     
  30. PeterNSteinmetz

    PeterNSteinmetz Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    A matter of emphasis perhaps, but here is what he says as the first thing in the first paragraph of the chapter on the rudder “The important thing to understand about the rudder pedals is that they are unnecessary” and his last paragraph ends with this quote “The only purpose of the rudder is to cover up the mistakes of the designer”.

    I think this promotes a poor emphasis for modern students who generally need more work on their use of the rudder, not less. I think it is something one should warn modern students about book. Otherwise love the book for starting students.

    So I guess don’t ignore everything he has to say about the rudder, perhaps just what he says about its importance.
     
  31. Simon Fogarty

    Simon Fogarty Filing Flight Plan

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    You might be interested to know that I am currently creating detailed scenery in MSFS 2020 for Falcon Field (KFFZ).
    It will include the up to date taxiway layout as the default version is using old data. I'll also be adding the new FBO hangers which are being constructed at the moment. While the sim doesn't give a true feel for flying it might help with familiarising for new pilots.
    Cheers
     
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  32. Sudburian

    Sudburian Pre-Flight

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    Cool! Where on the Internet do you post your sceneries?
     
  33. Juan Vallejo

    Juan Vallejo Filing Flight Plan

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    My wife said exactly the same thing, I'm hopping at some point she make the same commentary regarding my RC airplanes.
     
  34. David Megginson

    David Megginson Cleared for Takeoff

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    My spouse tells me not to worry so much about how much I spend on flying. In exchange, I support her buying new basses and other musical instruments. It's either a great arrangement or mutually-assured destruction.
     
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  35. Sudburian

    Sudburian Pre-Flight

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    I took my wife on a journey involving banjos for 2+ years prior to this. When she suggested that maybe I wasn't really serious about this whole aviation thing I asked her, "Didn't you say the same thing the first time I got a banjo?" (I now own 4 banjos, one of which is a fairly serious instrument.)
     
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  36. av8orDave

    av8orDave Filing Flight Plan

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    Great write up! I too was an avid flight simmer (still am, actually) from a young age (as far back as I can remember), and a few years ago at the age of 33 my wife said I have to just go get a private pilots license. Fast forward 5 years to today, we own a 1971 Cessna 177B Cardinal, and my wife should be taking her check ride to get her PPL sometime next month.

    I firmly believe that all the hours with flight sims paid off when getting my license. Although nothing really recreates the feeling of actual flight, the basic concepts and motor skills are pretty transferrable (I was able to finish my PPL in almost exactly 40 hours, and I credit alot of this to the sim time).

    Welcome to the world of those who've made the jump from sim to cockpit, and good luck on completing your certficate!
     
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  37. Juan Vallejo

    Juan Vallejo Filing Flight Plan

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    I been plating in sim since the first Microsoft Flight Simulator, so about 35 years ago, and RC planes for about 20 years.

    And both do help, and yes there is nothing like the real thing.

    Never have tried a RedBird Simulator though.
     
  38. labbadabba

    labbadabba Pattern Altitude

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    I actually found the opposite to be true. But I also made sure when I set up my sim that I had a lot of hardware that emulated a real GA cockpit. Yes there are certain sensations that can't be replicated and the flight model has yet to really simulate the dynamics of a good slip but for the most part it can be a fantastic tool for chair flying and proficiency around IFR procedures and what not.

    <--- That's my sim...
     
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  39. PeterNSteinmetz

    PeterNSteinmetz Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    Great choice of airplane! And best of luck to your wife on her checkride.
     
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  40. Sudburian

    Sudburian Pre-Flight

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    Very impressive setup! Have you tried Virtual Reality at all? I primarily use VR and even though there are a few tweaks still needed, it is mind-blowing. For the suggestions on this thread about practicing various concepts, like visual-based maneuvers, I think VR is a game-changer.