Flight students have a realistic new study tool that can help them learn to fly from the comfort of their own home. Gleim Aviation, familiar to many for its series of no-nonsense aviation study guides, introduced the Gleim Virtual Cockpit all-in-one simulator platform at the Sun 'n Fun International Fly-In and Expo in April. The device is much more than a computer simulator, explained Gleim Certificated Flight Instructor Paul Duty.
Gleim researched a number of common training aircraft and set out to duplicate their cockpit environments to build familiarity. Placing controls, gauges, and switches in all the right places helps students avoid picking up bad habits, he explained.
“The course monitors everything a student does,” Duty told AOPA. “If they are too high or too slow it gives feedback right away, just like an instructor would.” Integrating flight lessons from the realistic X-Plane simulator curriculum helps pace students with guidance, corrective feedback, and post-flight evaluations when they need it the most.
The well-respected software lives inside a platform that can be custom-configured around a captain’s chair to surround VFR and IFR students with up to three monitors and a variety of peripherals including yokes, throttle quadrant, rudder pedals, and more.
“We went to some of the most common training aircraft, Cessnas, Pipers, Diamonds, and light sport aircraft, and we took measurements of the flight controls, rudder pedals, sticks, and the cockpit itself,” Duty said. “We made sure when we set this system up that it would have the flexibility to exactly match the type of airplane pilots are training in,” he added. Students can connect accessories such as side stick controls, trim wheels, joysticks, and other devices to help make the system expandable as they progress to other aircraft.
The company discovered that duplicating the physical specs of a real aircraft cockpit helps pilots develop muscle memory, improve proficiency, and boost their confidence. Duty said the virtual cockpit “adds the hardware and puts pilots into a flight position where it looks and feels a lot like a real airplane.”
“One of the great things about the X-Plane software is that anything in there is customizable, so if something feels tighter or heavier in an actual airplane, users can change settings in the software so the simulated aircraft responds appropriately,” Duty said. More than 100 videos and 1,000 check points are designed into the software to thoroughly familiarize students with various aspects of the flight training regimen.
He said the “ultimate flight simulator experience” was designed by pilots—for pilots—to accommodate the training company’s top request for improving pilot proficiency. “Ask a pilot what they really want, and they’ll say ‘to fly more often.’” said Duty.
The realistic experience of the Gleim Virtual Cockpit allows flight students the time to practice maneuvers on the ground before perfecting them in the 3-D environment of a moving aircraft. “Simulators are the next best thing,” Duty said.