May 2010 Issue
IFR Desktop Simulators: Buy On Top or X-Plane
For round gauges and plug-and-play simplicity, ASA’s On Top is still a good value. But X-plane is the budget king, and the only choice for realistic glass panels.
There’s no question that logging some time flying pixels on your desktop computer can help keep you sharp flying real instruments through real clouds. How much it helps depends on how sophisticated the simulation is and how you go about using it. So let’s be crystal-clear that we’re talking about the bottom rung here: What’s the best choice for a simulator you can install at home to practice your procedures and scan in the half hour between cleaning up after dinner and the next episode of House? We should also set a few ground rules. You won’t be able to log time for approaches flown without an instructor by your side, so we see no point in forking over big bucks for an FAA-approved system. You will want at least the basic flight controls, so expect to spend about $110 for something like CH Products’ Flight Sim Yoke. Helicopter controls might cost a bit more. We wouldn’t bother with rudder pedals for airplanes. Plan on using your keyboard and mouse to control on-screen switches, knobs and buttons.
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