As many students and pilots around the world shelter-in-place during the coronavirus outbreak, flight simulation is one of the best ways to practice and maintain flying skills. However, in the simulation world, it can be tempting to bend the realities of operating an aircraft. To help you build and maintain your proficiency during the pandemic, here are five tips to keep your training focused and your scenarios realistic with a flight simulator.
In these unprecedented times of social distancing, even brief check-ins with your flight instructor or pilot friends can make a huge difference for your training. If you are pursuing a license or rating, find a way to communicate with your instructor so you can practice relevant tasks and continue progressing through your syllabus. If you are a licensed pilot, challenge your friends to fly the same scenario and see who performs the best.
You may be working from home in shorts and a sweatshirt, but you should be flying from home with the same gear that you’d use in the aircraft.
The goal of flight simulator training should not be to challenge yourself in unrealistic situations. Focus on training for isolated emergencies such as VFR into inadvertent IMC or an alternator failure on a long flight. Adding several emergencies to one flight only makes the training event unrealistic, if not inescapable.
Similarly, since you wouldn’t take on a 50-knot crosswind in your airplane, don’t do it in your simulator either. There are ways to bring live weather into your home simulator, and—even if you don’t use them—you should choose weather settings that make sense for your training event.
As a general guideline, limit failures and major weather events to 20% of your simulator sessions and only train for emergencies that make you a more proficient pilot.
If you find yourself in a situation that you need to think about, pausing the simulator is useful. For example, as a new instrument pilot, pausing the simulator before you get to a final approach fix gives you valuable time to brief and execute it. The pause button is the most powerful feature of a flight simulator if you use it correctly.