Your connection with the sky

Why Fly and Why Sim?

francois3Armchair pilot?

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By Francois A. ‘Navman’ Dumas – August 2010

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Dear AOPA members, I know I have been AWOL for some time. The reason being a very hectic and sometimes even dramatic life over the past year. But I'm back and blogging again, in various places! One such place is right HERE at Let's Go Flying, and another one is Why Fly Inc., of which I am co-owner and the tech wizard now, as well as contributor.

And we need READERS! So come and have a look when you have a passion for flying, or just want to know why OTHERS have a passion for it. It is totally FREE!

That's what Why Fly is all about. And in that sense it is really complementary to organizations such as AOPA and EAA, aiming for the exact same goal: getting people to love flying!

Back to flight simming.........

So what’s an armchair pilot?

Or, come to think of it, why would I want to write about that?

‘Armchair Pilots’ are what many flightsimmers call themselves. They ‘fly’ on a monitor (TV screen) attached to a desktop computer. Using, predominantly, Microsoft’s Flight Simulator, they can mimic real flight, learn manoeuvres, practice, or just fantasize about being a pilot … from the chair at their desk … and, sometimes, from a more-than-real, home-built-cockpit!!

For the most part these people cannot fly a real aircraft for a number of reasons. Money is one. Age and/or insufficient health are another. Or lack of time. Or lack of (family) support. Even fear of heights! There are many reasons why people stick, or turn to, PC flight simulation instead of practicing ‘the real deal’ to get themselves at bird level.

I know, since I am one of them. Sort of.

I am lucky as I HAVE been able to fly quite a lot, for real. I HAVE taken off in a small airplane – several in fact.  I have flown around the skies of many countries, and I’ve even landed a few times … myself. In fact, so far I have landed every time I went up (in some way or another).

But I know of many flightsimmers who have never flown in a real aircraft. And many of them are very knowledgeable individuals who sometimes know more about flying than real pilots, believe it or not.

Most of these ‘simmers’ are very interested in the world of real aviation, in whatever form or level. And that is also one of the reasons I have spent most of my adult life trying to somehow ‘link’ the real world and the simulated one.

I have always been a strong defender for both sets of skills. Just because one does not have the means, physical ability or opportunity to learn to fly for real, doesn’t make him, or her, a lesser aviation FAN! Nor does being a real pilot make you a better one.

What does matter is having a passion for aviation – be it virtual or real.

Since that’s what has brought you (and me) to Why Fly, and will hopefully keep you coming back, that too is why I’ll keep writing my columns here (and elsewhere).

About the joy of flying we ALL share … in one way or other.


My home based 'Cessna'


10 Responses to “Why Fly and Why Sim?”

  1. I'd like to get back into flight simming...
    What do you recommend as far as PC and/or graphics card system requirements for MS Flight Sim X?


  2. Hi Jason,

    FSX is pretty 'hungry' I'm afraid, so you'll need a beefy system.
    A Dual Core, preferably a quad-core, with at least 2,5 Ghz processor speed, minimum of 4Gb RAM and a powerful video card. NVidia still works best, but the new ATI 5xxx series now works as well. NVidia 2xx series is fine, with at least 00 Mb of on board RAM.

    I prefer two hard disks minimum, with FSX NOT installing on the 'c-disk' and NOT in the default MS programs directory.

    And of course, with all this stuff on board, you'll need a powerful power supply, 600 Watts and up and some good cooling!

    Any additional info you may want to ask, just visit in one of my forums, like

    Kind regards,

  3. With the EPA and the 100LL question and stuff like the new air port in FA that is still to finish the GA stuff I fear the day when simming might be all there is. Maybe Microsoft could add a bug where it gets harder and harder to find fuel or the old airport has the radar turned off and everyone went home. Wouldn't hurt to ask the SIMers for help now would it? I finnaly am at a place in my life to start out for my license and I hope I can finish it.

  4. If it makes you feel any better, I had the same fears when I was getting my driver's license at a time when we had the first oil crisis, war in the Middle-East and the report of Rome, all telling us that the days of driving on fossil fuels were about over.

    That was back in '70 or so. And even though fuel has been 4 times as expensive as in the US ever since, we're all still driving and I am still planning for my license in a few years (after I retire)... *gg*

  5. Radio stack on the left?!?


  6. I hold a comm ASEL/MEL, Instrument, CFI and I am an avid Simmer. I can honestly tell you that FSX with all the hardware such as yoke and rudder, possibly throttle quadrant and such, makes for some great practice for those folks actually working on ratings. I am convinced that for the few hundred I spent getting my sim set up the way I want it (equal to a few hours of actual training) I have been able to save a lot of money in training! Not by short cutting training, but by supplementing it with practice at home before paying for the plane rental.

  7. I am becoming an avid simmer. While I have been exposed many times to many different simulators over the last few years, I, as a pilot, am finding X-Plane to be the most realistic of the simulator programs and one that lends itself more to realistic procedures training, both for instrument and multi-engine students.

    I hold multi-engine ATP, single engine commercial certificates and CFI ratings for ASMEL-Instruments and have been teaching flying for more than 30 years. My only regret is that I didn't become interested in simming until the last 4 or 5 years. It dawned on me about that time that not only could I save money for people learning to fly, but that I could also same money in keeping myself current. My only regret in this regard is that I cannot seem to find additional CFIs in this area to show an equal interest. I cannot find other CFIs who are also simmers.

    I would like to find someone in the Southeast VA area who also takes simming seriously...whether or not that person is a CFI, or even a pilot.

    Any suggestions, anybody?

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  9. 'Armchair Pilots' good article, I agree with the reasons why you choose the flight simulator games .. when small dreams of becoming a pilot, still dreaming to be a virtual pilot ... just playing in front of the pc monitor

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