How Does A Flight Simulator Help Pilots?

Whenever an accident happens in the air, there is a lot of pressure for the pilots. They must guarantee the safety of everyone on board and on the ground. Their actions are the only thing that prevents a regular flight becoming a disaster. Or even worse, a fatal one. That is why before you can become a full-time pilot, you have to sit in the Flight Simulator for hours and train for every situation possible – from bird strikes, engine failures to bad weather.

But when you, a passenger, walk down the passenger boarding bridge you might feel anxious about the flight. You might be a bit scared. But you are very confident in the pilots that fly your plane. They undergo intense training throughout their whole career and you know that these are the most professional working people out there in the world.

So what exactly are Flight Simulators?

Types of Simulators

So there are three types of simulators:

Aviation Training Device or ATD for short. This is a simulator that provides pilots with a platform to train their basic skills and get a Private Pilot Certificate.

Advanced Aviation Training Device

Flight Training Device or FTD for short. This is a more advanced version of a simulator. This type has 4 different levels, with each level having different requirements to obtain the level. Each level has a different amount of aerodynamic programming, systems modeling, and other technological requirements.

A Flight Training Device
A Flight Training Device

Full Flight Simulators or FFS for short. This is the most advanced type of simulator out there. There are 4 levels, ranging from the letter A to D. All of the Full Flight simulators require some type of motion system. The two highest levels (C and D) must have an outside-world field of view. Level D simulators also need cockpit sounds and other motion and visual effects. Take a look inside and outside a Level D simulator:

Helping pilots

After you have received your pilots’ license and began working for an airline, every 6 months (if you are working in commercial aviation) or every 12 months (if you are working in private aviation) you have to test out your skills in various situations. In the times between these tests, pilots still usually train and sharpen their skills in simulators.

Simulator work is another factor if you want to advance your career as a pilot. It showcases to your employer that you are a dedicated, hard-working professional. But it does not count towards your total flight hours.

US Airways Flight 1549

US Airways Flight 1549 is a perfect example of why pilots need to spend hours in the simulator. After taking off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport, the Airbus A320 hit a flock of geese. Both of the engines had lost power. The pilots chose to glide the aircraft into the Hudson River, as the engines have still not ignited. The pilots were successful in ditching the Airbus. There were no fatalities, except a few serious and minor injuries. It can all be attributed to the skill and situational awareness of the 2 pilots.

Airbus A320 of the US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson river
Airbus A320 of the US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River

First Officer Jeffrey Skiles before this mission has never flown an Airbus A320. Various pilots tried to recreate the flight in a simulator. They concluded, that the aircraft could have made it back to LaGuardia.

Before making any further verdicts, you have to take into consideration that going back to LaGuardia, as Sullenberger (the captain of the flight) later mentioned in his book “It would be an irrevocable choice. It would rule out every other option.“ It could have been catastrophic. Another thing to consider is that pilots that were simulating the flight had known that they were going to strike geese, while the pilots on the real flight did not. They needed to make a decision as soon as they hit the birds, but then they did not grasp the problematic situation at hand.

This proves that no matter what, the pilots of today are very highly skilled people, who are the best at what they do. Especially in commercial aviation. This can be attributed to the numerous flights that they fly daily. The work in the Flight Simulator is also a huge contributing factor to their skill.

The next time you board a plane, remember that you are in safe hands and these people are going to do their best to successfully land the aircraft.