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Computer Games No Longer a Waste of TimeóDesktop Sims Prove Their Value

As you might imagine, I get a lot of, shall we say "interesting" comments when I tell people that I've written several books on flight simulations. Although many find flight simulations to be fascinating, an alarming amount of people consider them as a waste of timeópure entertainment with little to no other value. If youíre a Flight Simulator enthusiast like myself, youíve probably experienced something similar. When you meet someone and during the course of a conversation it becomes known how much time you spend in front of a computer with a flight controller in your hands, the typical response is people tend to think that youíre just a grown up kid because you still play computer games.

This attitude is very prevalent among non-aviators, but as a Certificated Flight Instructor, Iím very surprised that pilots and other CFIís have the same attitude. Although Iíve been an advocate of making use of PC-based desktop flight simulations for many years, the mainstream aviation world has finally taken notice.

The United States General Accounting Office conducted a study (GAO/RCED-99-143 to be exact) on the effectiveness of PCATD (Personal Computer Aviation Training Device) simulated flight time. (The FAA allows hours logged on a PCATD to be applied toward instrument rating training requirements.) The summation showed that using PCATDs resulted in no negative transfer (creating bad habits) of training compared to a flight training device.

The report reviewed the conclusions found in two studies, namely the 1994 ERAU study and the University of Illinois study from 1996. The report included the following conclusions:

  • It was unanimously determined that PCATDs offer training value
  • Some results indicated that PCATDs may be more effective than airplane training for some purposes
  • It was generally seen as being most appropriate for introducing equipment, procedures, and for practicing maneuvers, flight scenarios, and emergency procedures
  • There general agreement that low-cost simulations may be economically justified even if training is less effective than in an airplane
  • However, no conclusion on the appropriate/optimum number of hours of use was made

Although they can both run on identical computers, PCATDís are not the same as PC flight simulations. PCATDs are certified as a combination software and hardware (e.g. controllers) package. Nevertheless, like the U.S. Navy, we at FlightAdventures believe that skills and proficiency developed with Microsoft Flight Simulator 2000® positively transfers to real world flight training. Thatís why Iím particularly proud to say that the time youíve spent flying computers can amount to something that the uninitiated can comprehend. Thatís right, the hundreds (even thousands!) of hours youíve spent in front of the computer were not just for fun!

FlightAdventures is the first company that offers virtual pilots proficient in Flight Simulator 2000 the chance to put the skills theyíve developed to work. Weíve developed a state-of-the-art flight training program that will offer qualified virtual pilots the ability to solo a real airplane in a 3-day weekend. For more information on this and other exciting and innovative Adventure offerings, please visit

óBen Chiu

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