Barry Schiff’s recent article (page 40 of the AOPA magazine Jan 2009 issue) titled ‘flat-footed flying’ had me thinking. Barry’s story is about a pilot who doesn’t use his feet, i.e. doesn’t use his rudder – in flight. As it turns out his instructors taught him not to.
Barry was pretty miffed with this, as I can imagine, but it happens more often, I can tell you. I too had an instructor once who told me I didn’t need to keep my feet on the rudder pedals/brakes ‘because the plane turns by itself’. It did too, indeed, but obviously less efficient than while keeping the ball centered, as is the norm.
The reason I am writing about it here, is – of course – my ‘link’ to flightsimming. As you will read repeatedly in future articles of mine there most certainly IS a place for flight simulation programs in actually getting people into the air. And it is not only me who is convinced of that, and I am not the only pilot using Flight Simulator for various tasks.
BUT, there always is a but, there are a few dangers lurking too. One of the most heard problems with people coming off a sim-only environment into a real cockpit is the heads-down attitude. Many people learn themselves to fly on the instruments when simming. Having most of the tiny (but growing) monitor space filled with part of the instrument panel and the almost total lack of peripheral vision and feeling sort of forces budding (sim)pilots into this behavior. The advent of ‘virtual cockpit’ in FS2004 has somewhat improved the situation, but still.
One of the OTHER much found problems is what connected my thoughts of simming to Barry’s article: many Flight Simulator users buy the box, install the software on their (gaming?) PC and start flying… one way or other. In the old days – that’s a couple years ago only – most ‘gamers’ would have a joystick. Nowadays many do NOT even have that rudimentary bit of flight simulator hardware. Instead they are used to gaming with their mouse, or, yikes, a gamepad!
Well, let me tell you, there are no aircraft YET that are controlled with a gamepad. Most likely the one you will find yourself in for your first flight(s) will have a yoke (sort of a strange steering wheel that looks as if the designer ran out of material halfway down the design process). Or a ‘stick’.
And ALL will have rudder pedals!
So here’s the thing for you (would-be) flightsimmers: if you are SERIOUS about learning (about) flying, then get yourself some serious peripherals. That means a yoke or a joystick AND rudder pedals. And then learn to use them properly… at your desk. Good ones to start with are CH Products' pedals or Saitek's pedals, available anywhere on the Internet and probably somewhere near you as well.
That way we don’t have to embarrass Barry anymore in future !