Let the Devil Wear Black - Memoirs of an analyst

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Resources - MS Flight-Sim

Shaving hours off learning to fly.

Chapter 22

Microsoft Flight Simulator 98 — ‘MSFS98’ or simply ‘FS98’ — was perfect for Windows 98 and with a suitable joystick — I managed to get a Microsoft SideWinder 3D ProPlus — it was a joy to use. I spent many an hour flying around with just the default set of aeroplanes, subconsciously learning how to fly on instruments.

Even with the blistering power of a MMX processor running at 200MHz, there was a certain amount of latency — the time it takes from moving the joystick or altering some other control and seeing its effect on the screen in front of you. However, it was a wonderful learning experience if you didn’t have access to the real thing — or even a real simulator.

MSFS98 came with a Cessna, a Learjet and a large passenger aircraft. These kept me going for a while but eventually, I started to look elsewhere.

There are a number of Cessna aeroplanes on the internet as models that you could download and install on your computer. This Cessna cockpit is from one of them and gives a representation that is more useful than the FS98 default.

Of course, you also get the outside of the aeroplane as well.

You could also use tools that you could download from the internet to create your own panels and place on and scale any instruments you liked to make your own aircraft — this is a cockpit based upon the controls in the UFO as described by Travis Walton in the book ‘Fire in the Sky’.

Then there was Captain Slug’s aircraft which are works of art for FS98. The Bell Boeing 609 is great to fly and has a wonderful cockpit to go with it.

The Optica is one of the more esoteric aircraft you can fly although there are also hang–gliders and many others.

This is the plying pig — which, of course, you can fly over Battersea Power Station.

You can drive this around the airport or anywhere for that matter but the only way to get some altitude with it is to get up in the clouds as a different vehicle — one with wings usually — and then turn into this.

The Sopwith Camel has a ridiculously low stall speed and the real thing can take off standing still if a gust of wind gets it.

This is the ‘Twin Squirrel’ — albeit red instead of CabAir blue — that flew over the school and landed.

Having gone on to fly a real aeroplane, apart from the obvious difference of all–round vision and feeling the inertia of moving up and down or accelerating, the main difference is that of latency.

With a real aeroplane, you move the controls and you get an immediate reaction — with FS98, there is a very slight pause, just a few tens of milliseconds, but it is there.

Apart from that, I reckoned that it saved me a good 15 minutes in the half hour flight that I did in the book insofar as I already knew what the instruments did and how they would behave.

 
“Well, they are working for Gazelles. Now, as long as they work for Gazelles, they're not working for anybody else and that can only be for the benefit of everybody else.”

Copyright © 2012-2014 James F Linden. All Rights Reserved.