Will simulators take over flight training?
The application of technology in aviation has today gone way beyond anything we could have imagined 15 or 20 years ago. One of the amazing technological developments we have seen develop over the years is flight simulators. Even though simulators have been in use as far back as World War One, today’s simulators are extremely advanced and realistic. This advancement and realism has brought forth the debate as to what the role of simulators is in flight training and whether they help improve the skills of pilots who use them.
Those who are pro simulators have argued that these devices are now good enough to take the place of real flight in the training of pilots. Aviation regulators and many other players are not for the idea and consider this option to be quite extreme and lacking in a number of areas relating to the flying experience. There is no doubt that a number of benefits can be gained from using flight simulators in pilot training but to many people in the industry they are not yet at a level where they can replace the practical flying lesson on a real airplane.
Cost is one of the main benefits cited by those who argue that simulators are a viable replacement to the aircraft experience in aviation. It is argued that the simulator will offer a very realistic flying experience without the costs of fuel and flight maintenance as would be required for a real airplane flight. Another aspect of cost is in man-hours lost due to environmental factors that may interrupt or lead to cancelation of flying lessons when using an aircraft. Anyone using a simulator will not be affected by weather or other external factors.
Another factor that is argued by those advocating the use of aviation simulators is that students can get to see the actual consequences of their action or inaction without the safety concerns that would arise when on a real aircraft. The experience is realistic enough to send the message across to the student without putting them or others in actual danger. Flying a real aircraft will demand the immediate intervention of the instructor even before the action is executed.
Despite having so many benefits, aviation simulators have some very obvious flaws. They do not encompass the entire flying experience as would happen in the real world. Things such as noise levels may seem like a small matter but for some individuals this one factor alone could significantly affect and influence their ability to handle an aircraft. In addition to this, the simulator will not give the exact feel of flying. Just like driving or steering a boat, flying requires the pilot to be able to connect with the airplane and factors that affect flying in particular areas, under certain weather conditions and in different types of aircraft.
Simulators have come a long way from the pre World War One training rigs to the computerized full flight simulators of today. Even so, there is still a lot of work to be done before they are ready to completely take over the training of pilots who can then be certified as flight ready.