Beginners Guide to Flight Simulation


Getting acquainted with flight simulation might be somewhat daunting and at times seems like an herculean and almost impossible task but the specification of majority of today’s computers and an onward advancement in technology has ensured significant improvement in the performance, processing speeds and excellent graphic resolutions and thus making PC based flight simulation a great venture. Now you can enjoy flying on your computer systems in the comfort of your homes using flight simulation software of various kinds. They are an emerging form of home entertainment designed to give great fun and at the same time increase the users’ knowledge and understanding of real aviation systems and actual aircrafts. 

As strange as it might be for new users to exactly understand the user interface of these flight simulator systems, we then thought we will have a write up to answer usual questions that lingers on in the mind and which should help you ease into handling the systems. 

What can a PC flight simulator do? 

PC flight simulators are designed to handle a broad spectrum of flight simulation scenarios. In fact, any kind of aircraft that can be flown in real-world aviation scenarios can also be flown using a flight simulator. There are almost no limitations to what kind of aircraft and airport that you can fly in.

From the mighty Boeing 747 airplanes to narrow body airliners, fighter jets and to freight planes or even an antique plane etc. There is absolutely no impossibility of flying with a PC flight simulator. 

They help you sharpen and hone your skills and even test them. It’s a happy flying experience I tell you. 

Where can I fly? 

You can fly in over 20000 airports all around the world. From Asia to Africa to the ice cold Antarctica including all other continents and airspace of various countries each distinctively prepped for you to enjoy. 

In addition, you can also create your own imaginary flight plans and visit countries and places you’d never normally visit. 

To enjoy PC flight simulation, what kind of computer knowledge is necessary? 

What is required at best is the basic knowledge of the operations of a PC, Flight simulation software and hardware are easily installed and usually pose no problems. Most flight simulator software come with number of tutorial flights and training that will not only get you off the ground but also help you land safely. 

Who are those that can enjoy flight simulation using PC flight simulators? 

Pretty much anyone. Pilot training instructors and students can enjoy PC flight simulators as it presents them with a very close match to the real aircrafts. Also air transport enthusiasts, virtual pilots, and people of all ages can have pleasurable experiences using PC flight simulators. Guess what, the biggest number of flight simulation users are majorly avid enthusiasts. 

What do I need to get started in flight simulation? 

Getting started requires some hardware to be run by Flight Simulation software 

Hardware – running a flight simulator on PC will be achieved by employing a powerful system with correct specifications. 

Laptops are not really good for running flight simulators as they often time fall short in terms of processing speed and graphics. Nowadays though, there are of course some powerful laptops available like Alienware, etc., but in my personal experience desktops are better value for money. 

We’d suggest you use a desktop PC running on either windows 7, 8 or 10 operating systems a modern processor (such as the latest generation of Intel Core i7) with a speed of 3GHz or more, 8GB of RAM, a dedicated graphics card with at least 1GB of RAM, 500Gb or 1TB hard drive size, DVD-ROM drive, mouse, sound card and speakers. 

For whichever system type you choose to use, it must come with a very large portion of its processing ability dedicated to graphics and hence the quality of graphics card and processor must be very good. 

Generally speaking, the better the specifications of the PC, the better the visuals and fluidity of play you experience. 

Software – There are a number of software’s that are designed for PC flight simulation around but by far the best in terms of performance, value and popularity is Microsoft’s Flight Simulator series, which has been around in ever improving versions since 1980. It really is a fantastic program which immerses you in a beautifully rich and realistic world. Variants of Microsoft Flight Simulator that are available are FSX Steam and Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D. 

X-Plane is also increasingly popular and a good stand-alone flight simulator software which has been continually refined over the years and is renowned for the amazing accuracy of its flight dynamics. 

What exactly are a ‘stand-alone’ program, ‘add-on’ and ‘freeware’? 

A stand-alone program (such as FSX or P3D or X-Plane) is one that doesn’t need any additional software for it to work. You can buy it, install it on your PC and go flying. 

Add-ons (or expansions, as they are sometimes called) are extra programs designed to expand the hosts flight simulator program in specific areas which either haven’t been included in Flight (aircraft, for example) or could be improved with (detailed airports, specialized cockpit avionic systems, improvements to the terrain and so on). 

As the name suggests, add-ons need a flight simulator software installed for them to work, and any flight simulator software will have its own specific add – ons that will work. 

The purpose of add-ons is to allow the virtual flyer to customise various aspects of the default Flight Simulation system to suit exactly the type of flying experience wanted by the end user. Some add – ons created by flight simulation enthusiasts referred to as Freeware are regularly shared online; they include new aircrafts, airports etc. of very high quality and totally free. 

There are numerous websites with an unending catalogue of freeware which you can download from without any legal restrictions. 

Here are just a few types of add-ons you can buy – or find for absolutely nothing in freeware libraries: 

Aircraft – If you look hard enough, you can probably find a simulated model of every aircraft that has ever graced the skies 

Airports – Highly detailed versions of specific airports across the globe 

Scenery – Highly detailed versions of certain areas, with buildings, landmarks, roads, rivers, railways and more 

Utilities – covering a huge range of additional features, such as flight planners, additional cockpit instrumentation, accurate ATC, weather upgrades to re-create exactly the conditions a real-world pilot might face, and extra airport traffic so that the aircraft you see at an airport is just as it would be in real life. 

Do I need an Internet connection? 

Internet access is not really necessary but having one will avail you of the many benefits (add – ons and freeware inclusive) available online. Also the availability of internet connection will make you get constant updates as regards software and the availability of new information. The availability of internet connection will also make the experience more sociable as you will get to meet and interact with other users like yourself on forums; you get to play multiplayer modes online with some popular service providers such as In almost all cases, online connection is required for full software activation and benefits.

Do I need to be an expert in aviation to enjoy flight simulation? 

Not at all, Real world flying experience might not be readily available to many of us and even when available limited to authorized personnel alone because of the inherent risks attached . Flight simulation on PC, is however not only open to experts and authorized persons but rather anyone willing to enjoy the thrills and frills of flying any type of aircraft in an almost real setting at the comfort of your PC. 

Flight Simulation on PC allows you to find your own level and area of interest and take it as casually or as seriously as you like. All simulator software come with extensive training flights which will rightly guide you as you progress. 

Some of us will choose to enjoy leisurely flights and short hops in light aircraft or historical planes, while others will choose to devote countless hours to mastering the complex cockpit systems of modern jet airliners and the techniques of instrument flying. It’s entirely up to you as the transition from handling these flight simulation systems to real – life aircrafts is entirely easy and complimentary of one another. 

What is Online Flying? 

Why fly alone on your PC. Imagine if you are flying along with many people across the world, with live ATC and following real procedures yet without leaving the walls of your house. There are a few online platforms for flight simulation enthusiasts to enjoy their hobby in a simulated real-world environment, in company of other people, flying or providing Air Traffic Control services. and are the most popular networks around the world. Trust me this will elevate your level of realism to a whole new level. 

Are simulators really the next big thing? 

Flight simulation has clearly gone beyond just what we can refer to as a game, its applications and usage although primarily for entertainment has further delved Considering the intricacies and swift development of PC’s, today’s simulators are very much realistic, the difference between them and real – life aircrafts are thinly veiled. 

A real-world pilot can now practice a flight he’s planning to make in the real world using accurate representations of departure and destination airports in a flight simulator, flying over scenery that is developed from actual photographs of what’s on the ground, navigating with navigation aids in their real-world positions, and flying in the real-time weather conditions applicable to the flight route and trying out the flight paths. New add-ons such as PMDG, Aerosoft and many others have constantly lifted the bar of realism. 

Believe me modern day flight simulators with the right computer setup, good choice of add-ons and flying online is truly “As Real as it Gets”. You can achieve all this without spending too much. 

What more? 

Many will be contented to fly on their PC’s may be adding a joystick. But if you are few among those who would like to fly with your PC but without using the keyboard and the mouse but still fly. Is it possible? Yes, it is? 

There are range of hardware you can now add to your PC based simulator and make things more realistic. Imagine not having to play around the mouse to control the auto pilot of the plane or tune the radio panel or start the engines. 

Flight simulator hardware comes in various shapes and sizes. Some are generic and some are specific to an aircraft type and 1:1 scale. 

May be another separate article on this but in India promises to build simulator based on your budget and specification and you can reach out to them for options.

For Simfocal's range of Flight Simulators see here -