Flight simulator since I was 11

Does flight simulator help you learn how to fly?

My first flight simulator was when I was 11, which was when MSFS 98/2000 was released. I have yet to download FS2020 because I’m trying to decide on a new $8000 computer with specs needed to run FS2020, so I am still using FSX with FMC mods and other realistic mods. Infinite flight is not as realistic but it lets you program “legs” which take forever, and it’s really meant for mobile not complete simulation.

I have learned how VFR and IFR works, how to program the FMC to fly your STARs, IAPs, and Departure Routes, and have been on strict and extremely busy VATSIM multiplayer on both VFR and IFR days. I’ve done hand approaches and landings as well as full ILS landings on very bad IMC/low RVR days.

For physics, aerodynamics, FARS/AIMs, I’ve read both FAA Airplane flying handbooks, and felt that being a pilot is more than I thought it would. I just never had the time or money to actually put lessons, and I’m really considering an ATP career.

Was all this helpful and would it help towards getting into your ATP program or is there another 300 page handbook on FARS/AIMs, aerodynamics that I should read?


While MSFS and the like may give you so understanding how the instrumentation of an airplane works, ultimately its a game and without proper instruction it can actually create negative learning. The analogy I like to use is my friend would always play Call of Duty but he’s certainly wasn’t a Marine nor would he be safe in a war zone.


Man if only I could log flight sim time from when I was a young kid I’d be a 747 Captain by now :joy:

I hate to be the one to say it, but no one is impressed with non-supervised desktop sim time, no matter how realistic it may seem. I would not spend any of my own money on any of it.


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I am not a fan of any of the computer simulation programs, period. The problem is exactly what you stated, you think you have learned how VFY, IFR, FMC, STARs, etc work, but the reality is you probably have a very simplified understanding along with some serious misconceptions. I do not want to sound mean, but learning these kinds of false positives can be very dangerous and actually be negative training. A CFI will probably have to spend considerable time teaching you the correct way to do things.

Honestly, some of the knowledge you have will be helpful, but the only thing that is really helpful is taking actual flying lessons and logging hours. I would put your money towards flying, not computers.


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Years ago (from MSFS95 through 2020) I have spent way too many hours on squeezing the most realism out of a desktop simulation. I bought the new flight sim version for my kiddo just so I can keep yelling “more right rudder” and “what are you doing?!” at someone after flight instructing becomes a former career. When I started training back in 2010, the sim not only lost its allure because it felt so unrealistic, but because none of my “learned” skill and knowledge with a few very small exceptions translated into anything real world. I actually was pretty frustrated by the new sim as well, as implementation of some of the most basic nav units like the GNS430 is so oversimplified that you can’t really use them to learn even the most basic operations. You will have to come into training with a forced “blank slate” perspective as more than likely you may have acquired some bad habits or misconceptions as the mentors stated.