In completing pilot training, it is important that a pilot has a comprehensive understanding of various aspects of flight. A pilot must be well versed on the hundreds of components featured on an aircraft, how they might differ in the many types of aircraft, and the various stressors an aircraft can encounter in its flight cycle— including systems malfunction and adverse weather conditions. In addition, the pilot must be able to simultaneously monitor RPM, altitude factors, navigation, and more. So how can they realistically prepare for complex conditions that are so difficult to replicate in real-time? Nowadays, a virtual reality (VR) flight simulator is often used to prepare pilots for circumstances they might encounter.
A typical flight simulator is a cockpit replica that is modeled after a specific aircraft and its flying performance. The replicated control room is mounted on a hydraulically or electronically operated platform, allowing the simulator to replicate movements of the cockpit based on acceleration and G-force that a pilot might encounter on a real flight. The acoustics are also designed to simulate what a pilot might hear during flight; the sound design factors in acoustic elements associated with pressurization cycles, weather, and the sound of aircraft mechanisms. Most flight simulators will feature replicated manufacture grade hardware or are equipped with real parts.
Flight simulators differ in what they can offer for malfunction systems, avionics, and cockpit variation. Most will have the capacity to replicate airspeed controls, landing nuances, RPM controls, altitude level monitors, sensor malfunctions, adverse weather conditions, navigation systems, and more. There are 3 types of flight simulator used today: Aviation Training Device (ATD), Flight Training Device (FTD), and Full Flight Simulators (FFS).
An ATD is a simulation used for general aviation. General aviation pilots are tested every 12 months to maintain their license. This simulator is helpful in providing a space for pilots to practice their basic skills and is often used in preparation to earn their private pilot certificate.
An FTD is more advanced than an ATD. It features levels that test a pilot based on knowledge of aerodynamics, programming and avionics, and other requirements.
An FFS is used frequently to help prepare pilots for civil aviation. It involves four specified levels that fully replicate sound, movement, and visual effects the pilot would encounter on a standard commercial flight. These simulators have a full interactive world view that is visible to the pilot through the cockpit windshield.
Altogether, a VR flight simulator can create a remarkably realistic environment, that can help a pilot prepare for flight in differentiating aircraft. This aids in preparing pilots for situations that are difficult to replicate in real time, such as extreme weather, engine failure, or avionics malfunction. As each type of aircraft has specific features, and integrated systems, this preparation is key in ensuring pilot preparedness in flight.