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X-Plane Flies Right
by James Dunnigan
January 4, 2009

Discussion Board on this DLS topic

The U.S. Air Force has finally found a commercial (PC based) flight simulator that works for them. That's because the game, X-Plane, provides sufficient editing capabilities for aviation engineers to use classified flight characteristics to create simulated warplanes that are realistic enough to allow military pilots to get useful training while using them. That's a big deal.

Mass market flight simulators have been around since the 1970s. Publishers soon found that their customers were more interested in military aircraft, and there followed a flood of military flight simulators. But military pilots also were interested.

For over a decade, using commercial flight simulators for training has become increasingly more popular among younger aviators. The younger ones see the simulators as giving them additional "experience," but the more senior ones are more aware of where the simulators fail to replicate actual flying conditions, and teach the young pilots the wrong lessons. The U.S. Air Force has long kept tabs on commercial flight simulator development, and notes which are strong, or weak, and in what areas. This information is distributed to their pilots, to warn them about what works in which flight simulator, and what doesn't.

Back in the 1990s, the U.S. military even checked trainee pilots for prior use of these flight simulators, and found that these "games" did help with initial pilot training. Experiments were then conducted, having some trainees spend time with the commercial flight simulator software, while others did not. This confirmed the belief that the commercial flight simulators were useful. But with the classified "Plane Maker" mods, military pilots of fighters, bombers, helicopters and transports can get inexpensive, realistic, flight simulation training. X-Plane also allows you to create your own scenery and weather conditions, which are also very realistic.

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