Microsoft Flight Simmer takes a real flight lesson

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

  1. labbadabba

    labbadabba Pattern Altitude

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    I'm thinking about it, but knob turning and checking my ipad are tricky with that set-up.
     
  2. Sudburian

    Sudburian Pre-Flight

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    I don't have a cool setup like yours so my situation isn't as tricky to get around, but as a VR fan I can offer you this: It seems to work out fine when there's a VR headset on my head and my hands/fingers know where to go due to familiarity with where the joystick and "throttle" are located. (I have a HOTAS Thrustmaster so it's a joystick and a single accelerator, with multiple buttons that can be programmed).

    But I do still want to learn ForeFlight properly and have that running on the iPad, and there are occasional keyboard inputs I have to enter. For that, I basically "peek" at the iPad or keyboard with the headset still on me. I don't have to remove it. I barely move it at all, really, so I can easily look at the iPad or keyboard when needed. I would say that you could successfully incorporate VR into an advanced home simulation setup like the one you have. In fact I am interested in upgrading to a situation that's closer to yours.
     
  3. labbadabba

    labbadabba Pattern Altitude

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    Yep, I wont lie, it's a tempting upgrade. I have the Thurstmaster HOTAS as well for playing Star Wars Squadrons (thinking of VR for that alone). But most of my airplane sim flying is IFR/IMC so I don't need much more than the panel other than take-off and landing.
     
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  4. Sudburian

    Sudburian Pre-Flight

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    I thought I'd post an update here just to further journal my progress.

    To date, I've put a general pause on in-person lessons because of the Arizona heat, the lack of any need to hurry on my part, and what were then covid conditions. I'll resume in October with a flight school I signed up for in Scottsdale. Meanwhile, I just got back from a family vacation in Kaua'i, Hawai'i, and while there I signed up for a couple of flight instruction sessions with a local flightseeing company.

    I've gone up in the air for instruction a total of 4 times now, 2 times in Arizona and now the 2 Hawaii flights. Although I'm logging the hours from these sporadic experiences, I'm just trying to indulge in having some fun until my real flight lessons begin. I can see a clear difference between my very first student pilot experience described above, and my last one in Kaua'i. My first flight experience had me completely fixated on looking at my instruments, maybe because of Flight Simulator habits or maybe just from nerves. I worked on this for my second flight lesson and improved a bit, but I probably still fixated too much. By the end of flight #2, I also felt pretty nauseous.

    But flight #3 in Kaua'i was quite different. I did not feel a need to fixate on the instruments, and felt much more comfortable maneuvering the airplane while only glancing to check my airspeed and altitude. Flight #4 in Kaua'i was 5 days later and I enjoyed this new way of flying even more. Plus, the nausea was gone completely for both of these flights. Doing this, especially with the mind blowing scenery of Kaua'i, was totally thrilling and exhilarating. I remember looking down soon after take-off from Lihue Airport, at about 2,000 feet, and seeing an airliner below us at about 1,000 feet on its way to land. I don't know how to describe this--it was just super cool to see that visual.

    The instructor let me fly about 60% of the route for flight #3. My 15-year old daughter was in the back seat of this Cessna 172, and I was thrilled to see that she actually loved it (contrary to her mom, who is still skittish about small planes). Taking off from Lihue, we did a clockwise circle around the island of Kaua'i, flying at about 2,000 feet as we went past the famous Na Pali cliffs (which are approximately 4,000 feet high). We then flew over Hanalei Bay, Princeville, Mark Zuckerberg's obnoxiously massive estate, and back to Lihue. The instructor simply had me focus on flying straight and level, and executing a few simple turns.

    For flight #4 I flew about 75% of the route. The CFI ditched the idea of showing me any amazing scenery since I'd seen it all anyway. I instead got a good lesson in weather-based decision-making. The weather patterns on this island are complex beyond my current level of comprehension. Every day there are thick clouds that fully cover the center of Kaua'i (making that center the literally wettest spot on Earth). Sporadically these clouds move across to other parts of the island, typically at elevations as low as 2,000 or 3,000 feet. I wasn't sure how an instructor teaching a student pilot in fully VFR conditions would remain VFR. We took off with clouds in the immediate vicinity of Lihue, and stayed below them. As we approached the Na Pali cliffs, we realized that the clouds were just too low for us to pass through in VFR conditions, so we turned around. Doing so would require us to enter the military airspace of Barking Sands Naval Base, so I enjoyed hearing the CFI interact with the BSNB controller to request permission to do so. We then got to fly almost directly above the BSNB airport. (This base is responsible for firing off anti-missile missiles btw. Again, super cool).

    Landings and takeoffs were handled by the CFI entirely. The whole thing was awesome. Can't wait to resume real lessons. Hopefully any bad habits I learned from being a simmer will melt away as I get further into this.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2021
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  5. Salty

    Salty Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Congrats on graduating to the real world, it just doesn’t compare. You lucked out with Peter too, he’s a great guy!

    I found the above comment interesting because I had that same problem. It makes no sense since you don’t lift up in the throttle of a car to go faster, and my sims throttle was configured correctly, but it took me 3 or 4 hours in the air to stop moving it the wrong way initially. Interestingly I had the same problem when I first started flying gliders, I’d push the spoilers the wrong way every time, until someone on here told me to think of it as the throttle. It worked!
     
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  6. David Megginson

    David Megginson Pattern Altitude

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    I think that's common for people who've spent a long time using desktop sims, especially because they tend to play with too much plane (straight to a 747 or warbird). For VFR, as you saw in your later lessons, the windshield should be your primary instrument. If you stick with something very simple next time in the sim, like a J3 Cub, it should help with that because there won't be many instruments to fixate on. :)
     
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  7. ColoPilot

    ColoPilot Line Up and Wait

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    Great write-up, thanks for sharing.

    Why did the CFI handle the take-off and landings entirely? I remember my first lessons doing the take-offs and landings (with CFI assisting of course -- especially the landings). Was it planned as sight-seeing flight or an actual flight lesson?
     
  8. Sudburian

    Sudburian Pre-Flight

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    I didn't ask. He did let me taxi. I'll speculate that it has to do with my not being a regular student, and the fact that this CFI (though I really liked him and he struck me as very diligent and smart) was brand new to this small company. My Arizona CFI did have me handle the takeoff on my first flight with him (flight #2).

    This is primarily a flightseeing company, so it may be that their insurance carrier told them that they can lower their premiums if they agree not to let students handle takeoffs/landings. Again, just speculation by me.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2021
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  9. Sudburian

    Sudburian Pre-Flight

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    Will always be grateful to Peter! He took me up and had me flying for flight #1 just to be friendly to a local student pilot. That was the flight experience that really got me going on my training. Hope to return the favor some day.
     
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  10. Trogdor

    Trogdor Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I assume you are on PilotEdge or equivalent?
     
  11. Sudburian

    Sudburian Pre-Flight

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    It's been on my mind and I've been putting it off. For a while I debated between Vatsim and PilotEdge, and decided that PilotEdge was more training-oriented and realistic. I just haven't pulled the trigger yet to actually sign up.
     
  12. Trogdor

    Trogdor Pre-takeoff checklist

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    You really should. In fact, right now Simventure is going on and it is the perfect time to try it! You’ll be way ahead of the game if you can go through all the CAT and IFR ratings on PE.
     
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  13. Sudburian

    Sudburian Pre-Flight

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    I signed up for PilotEdge and am kicking myself for not starting earlier. Best possible way to get over "mic fright" for new student pilots.

    Last weekend, I sprung for another one of my sporadic flight lessons that are not intended to be part of my regular instruction. Enjoyed it a lot. The CFI was a retired airline pilot who met me in a Northern Arizona rural airport, Cottonwood (P52). He took me up in a light ultrasport this time, which is the first time I've flown anything other than a Cessna 172 or 177. He had me do a lot of work on turns. And he gave me my first experience observing a stall recovery. I thought it would be terrifying, because I thought we were going to sink like a rock. I realize now that at this level of instruction, stall recovery consists of simply reaching a stall speed and momentarily stalling for a second, before quickly coming out of it with pitch and speed.

    It was pretty cool being in a light ultrasport plane with a highly experienced CFI who had flown airliners. Since I don't live in this area I can't rely on him for my regular instruction, but I definitely intend on signing him up as often as I can for supplementing my education, especially for flying in mountainous terrain (i.e., Northern Arizona).
     
  14. Silvaire

    Silvaire En-Route

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    You can't really answer that because you can't go back and go through the same experience with zero flight sim exposure to compare. I'd say it almost certainly had to have helped at some point. Didn't the barefoot bandit get his initial training on MSFS and also that guy who borrowed the Bombardier Q400 in Seattle and did a couple of Immelmann's and a barrel roll?
     
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  15. David Megginson

    David Megginson Pattern Altitude

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    My choice back in 2002 was to sign up for lessons at a busy towered airport so that I'd get comfortable with radio work and ATC (ATIS->Clearance->Ground->Tower->Terminal every time I took off), wake-turbulence separation, etc. It probably added at least $1,000 to my training cost to get to PPL, but the first time I flew into New York Approach I was comfortable because it was no more hectic than, say, Toronto Terminal (or even Ottawa Terminal at a busy time of day). I consider it money well spent.
     
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  16. Sudburian

    Sudburian Pre-Flight

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    I probably overstated. Something like PilotEdge isn't necessarily the "best possible" way for a student to learn, because real world practice obviously is.

    But I have not started taking my flight lessons in earnest yet. Before even getting into an airplane, you can use PE to practice talking to ATC. The company signs up real-world ATC controllers, so it's about as close to reality as you can get while sitting in a computer chair. I highly recommend for any students out there who are still in that early, pre-lesson stage.
     
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  17. Sudburian

    Sudburian Pre-Flight

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    Literally proving that old adage about learning just enough to be dangerous!
     
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  18. David Megginson

    David Megginson Pattern Altitude

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    Exactly. Alexander Pope said it best three centuries ago in his "Essay on Criticism":
    That proved itself over and over again during the pandemic, with fools who have a little learning (e.g. an undergrad biology or stats degree) starting YouTube channels and setting themselves as experts on topics they're so ignorant about that they don't even know how much they don't know.
     
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  19. Sudburian

    Sudburian Pre-Flight

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    Many thanks for highlighting this for me. I recently passed CAT-5 and have no idea how student pilots figure all of this out without doing exactly what PE offers. I'd rather get yelled at by PE's ATC controllers than by real ones in real-world conditions. Cost: $20 a month. No brainer.
     
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  20. Trogdor

    Trogdor Pre-takeoff checklist

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    No problem. I’m very proficient on the radio (VFR and IFR) due to PE.
     
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  21. Sudburian

    Sudburian Pre-Flight

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    Update:

    After taking a break from lessons for the Arizona summer, I am back at it. During this pause, I signed up for PilotEdge and used that heavily for about 4 months and continuing, with Microsoft Flight Simulator. (Total cost for this: about $140 for those 4 months). The results have been fantastic. Yesterday was my first real lesson with a CFI with whom I intend to regularly fly with now. As we prepared for the lesson, he told me that he'd have me handle pretty much everything on the flight except for radios, which we could start with next time. But I explained to him what PE did and how I felt about handling radios now thanks to it, and suggested that I can probably handle them fine. So he let me have at it.

    In all aspects of my lesson that day involving flying, I have no doubt that I was 100% like every other new student pilot. But on the radio, things were completely seamless. As comfortable as I was speaking to PE controllers, I was comfortable speaking to KDVT ground and tower. I also handled the traffic position calls when we were in our practice area. You wouldn't believe the stark difference between now and pre-PE. When I had gone up with CFIs previously, everything being said on the radios was gibberish to me. No longer.

    Given that this thread is about the experience of a flight sim guy transitioning into real-world aviation, this topic is definitely in the plus column for the benefits of flight sim technology. It certainly can eliminate virtually all needed instructional time in the plane on two important topics, if you choose to focus on them through PE or any similar service (I believe PE is the only one that works with computer-based flight simulators though): (1) communicating with ATC at all levels, and (2) navigating complex airspace as enforced realistically by ATC. Any students out there who have mic fright or get anxiety at the mere thought of trying to ever fly into a Class Bravo, I highly recommend you look into this service.