Flight simulators: Useless for practicing landings?

Paul Bertorelli has recently written an interesting post (Johnny Can Read, But He Can’t Land) for AVWeb covering landings that brought up some interesting points about the use of flight simulators to practice landings and whether they do a good or bad job of simulating one. Paul began by writing that landing an aircraft may not be particularly difficult but doing it well consistently isn’t easy either and year after year, this inconsistency gets reflected in the NTSB accident database. He also noted the greater use of flight simulators as a primary teaching tool.

However and for landings, Paul is not so sure how useful flight simulators are because:

Of all the tasks in flying, landing requires the most refined motor skills and hand-eye coordination in reaction to a stream of subtle cues. Some LSAs require more of that rather than less.

Paul then went on to mention that when he was at Oshkosh last summer, Jerry Gregoire put him into Redbird’s J-3 simulator which got the flight dynamics mostly right but it did not bounce on the runway the way a real Cub aircraft would.

And without the bounce dynamic built in, Paul concluded that you don’t have a flight simulator but rather just a video game because not all bounces are the same as the “small ones you get on a three-pointer can be ignored, but the 10-footers with roll excursions have to be dealt with aggressively.”

He also added that:

What separates an acceptable landing from one that’s bound for the ditches are often subtle cues related to seat-of-the-pants sensing of acceleration, turning and slipping moments. You feel these in your butt or see them through the windshield and you respond with the appropriate control input. Sometimes that’s gentle and subtle, sometimes not. But the airplane moving in three dimensions helps you discern the difference.

Flight simulators may get close to that but Paul concluded that they don’t yet nail it just yet.

Hence, we want to see what you our readers think about flight simulators in general along with simulated landings: In other words, do flight simulators do a good job of simulating landings just yet? Moreover, did flight simulators help you become a better general aviation pilot while training?


2 Responses to Flight simulators: Useless for practicing landings?

  1. Rich October 5, 2012 at 19:27 #

    I agree that flight simulators don’t add much for landing practice. They are absolutely fantastic for instrument training and very useful for VFR (e.g. flying into mountain airports to preview the terrain), but for landings there is no substitute for time spent in the seat of the real plane.

  2. Jim Howard October 6, 2012 at 01:51 #

    I recently flew the Redbird C182R simulator at the Redbird Skyport in San Marcos.

    It’s behavior in landing is NOTHING like that of a real C182. First, there is no force feedback in the yoke, which is a big deal in a C182. There is a noticable lag between control input and simulated aircraft response.

    This sim was great for practicing instrument procedures, and great for learning to use Garmin and King avionics.

    It was useless for any kind of stick-and-rudder training, especially landing.

    Once you hit ILS minimums its a fun video game, nothing more.

    I don’t think it would be worth the cost to make this class of simulator really replicate the stick force behavior of a real Cessna.

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