The World of Flight Simulators

The World of Flight Simulators

DALLAS — Flight simulators allow pilots to practice and improve their skills in a safe and controlled environment before flying a real aircraft.

These apparatuses can simulate a wide range of scenarios, from basic flying maneuvers to complex emergency situations, and can be used for training purposes, research, and testing purposes.

Further, they are designed to simulate various aspects of real-world flying, including aircraft handling, navigation, communication, and emergency procedures. They typically include a cockpit replica, realistic controls, visual displays, and a sound system to create a lifelike experience.

Between 25 and 50 hours of training in a full flight simulator representing the class of airplane for the rating sought may be credited toward the flight time requirement if the training was accomplished as part of an approved training course.

We’ll start by looking at the types of simulators used in aviation.

The CAE 7000XR Series full-flight simulator (FFS). Image: CAE

Types of Simulators


Aircraft simulators are typically divided into two broad types: closed-circuit simulators and open-circuit simulators. A closed-circuit simulator allows the user to fly the aircraft within a predefined physical environment, while an open-circuit simulator allows the user to fly in an open environment. These two types of simulators are typically used for different purposes. A closed-circuit simulator is used for pilot training, while an open-circuit simulator is used for aircraft design and manufacturing.

Alongside, there are different types of aviation simulators, including full-motion simulators, fixed-base simulators, and desktop simulators. Full-motion simulators provide a real physical experience of flying, with a hydraulic platform that moves in response to control inputs. 

Fixed-base simulators provide a more limited physical experience, with a stationary cockpit and fewer physical feedback elements. Desktop simulators are computer-based simulations that can be run on a computer or tablet.

Simulators have become increasingly realistic over the years, with advances in technology allowing for more immersive experiences. Virtual reality technology, for example, has made it possible for users to interact with a simulated environment using specialized equipment physically. 

Multiple types of simulators are used for training aviation professionals. Some of them can be listed as follows.

Embraer-E2-Simulator. Photo: Embraer

1. Full Flight Simulators (FFS): These are the most advanced and sophisticated type of aviation simulator available. They are designed to provide a realistic simulation of the entire flight experience from takeoff to landing, including all emergency procedures. They are primarily used for pilot training and certification.

Full Flight Simulators provide a complete replica of an aircraft cockpit and can simulate actual flight conditions, including turbulence and weather changes. They require a big space to function. They are equipped with a fully functional cockpit, a hydraulic motion system, and advanced visual displays to provide an immersive experience.

2. Flight Training Devices (FTD): These are simplified versions of FFS that are used for initial pilot training. They are cheaper and require less space than FFS, but they cannot simulate all flight conditions. These are simulators that replicate the cockpit of an aircraft and are used for training and certification purposes.

They are less advanced than FFS simulators and are primarily used for basic flight training, instrument training, and procedural training. They are equipped with basic flight instruments, cockpit controls, and visual displays. It doesn’t have a hydraulic platform but still, it is designed to look and feel like a real aircraft.

3. Cockpit Procedures Trainers (CPT): CPTs are simulators that focus on training pilots in specific procedures such as engine startup, takeoff, landing, and emergency situations. They focus on the operation and use of specific aircraft systems and equipment. They are used to provide training on specific cockpit procedures and equipment operations.

4. Part-Task Trainers (PPT): These are computer-based training systems that focus on specific tasks, such as navigation, radio communication, instrument reading, emergency procedures, or specific flight maneuvers. They are used to provide targeted training and practice for pilots and other aviation professionals.

5. Computer-Based Training (CBT): CBTs are simulators that have interactive computer software to provide training to pilots and other aviation professionals. They are designed to teach theoretical concepts, procedures, and principles of flight. They are used for ground-based training and can be accessed remotely.

Boeing 737 Full Flight Simulator (FFS). Image: Baltic Aviation Academy, CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

 6. Virtual Reality Simulators (VR): These are the simulators that use computer-generated images and environments to provide a realistic simulation of flight. They are designed to provide an immersive experience and are primarily used for pilot training and certification.

7. Maintenance Training Devices (MTD): MTDs are the simulators that focus on the maintenance and repair of aircraft systems and equipment. They are used to provide training to maintenance personnel on specific aircraft systems and equipment.

8. Air Traffic Control Simulators (ATC): These are the types of simulators that provide training to air traffic controllers. They are designed to replicate the air traffic control environment and provide training on specific procedures and protocols.

9. Mission Training Devices (MTD): These are the simulators that are used to train military pilots and aircrew in specific mission scenarios, such as aerial combat or search or rescue operations. They are designed to provide a realistic simulation of mission scenarios and are equipped with advanced visual displays and other features. 

Overall, aviation simulators are designed to provide a safe and controlled environment for pilots and aviation professionals to practice their skills and improve their abilities, without the risk of real-world accidents or injuries.

The CAE 3000 Series helicopter flight and mission simulator. Image: CAE

Other Uses of Aviation Simulators


Flight Simulators are also used in the design and development of new aircraft. Simulators can be used to test the performance of new aircraft designs under various conditions such as different altitudes and temperature ranges. Aviation manufacturers use simulators to test new aircraft models and systems before actual flight testing with a physical prototype.


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Featured image: Porter Airlines

Sharad Ranabhat mainly covers feature stories alongside other interesting articles. Having written for Sam Chui, Airlive, Travel Radar, Aviation Nepal and others, he aims to cover as many feature stories as possible here at Airways Magazine.

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