Can a simulator teach you to fly?

I have been a CFI for 10 years now and a simulator user for much longer than that. I am frequently asked if flight simulators are just games or if they can really teach someone to fly.

YES, simulators can teach you to fly (almost). They are more than worth the time you put into them and here is why.

Flying is VERY expensive! By comparison, a home simulator (even with a high-end computer) is very inexpensive. So the cost savings are significant, as long as the simulator can make real-world training go faster.

I have given flight instruction to many people of all ages, with all sorts of backgrounds and skill levels. Everybody can be taught to fly, but some people take longer than others to get the hang of it. Almost everybody gets stalled somewhere in their training.

The most common place for people to get slowed down in training is when learning to land. This usually takes 10-20 tries before the student can perform survivable landings, and 50-100 landings before they are consistently good. Once the student can consistently make good landings (and decide to go-around as needed) they can do their first solo and move forward in training.

The Simulator Difference

This is where flight simulators come in. I always ask my students if they use flight simulators and most say “no”, or “just a little”. However, the students that report using flight simulators frequently have one amazing thing in common…..They land well in real life ON THE VERY FIRST TRY!

This one difference gets these students to solo very quickly and saves them hundreds of dollars in training costs. I have one important note here. I do not mean that they land well on the first lesson. In fact, I always have my students hold the controls and watch me land on the first lesson.

But after a few lessons of airwork they have a feel for the plane, and I always share the controls during landing on these lessons. But after seeing a few landings and really getting a feel for how the plane handles they are ready for the first lesson dedicated to them landing the plane. And that is when they do it.

As we approach the runway my hand is floating next to the yoke with my fingers outstretched – ready to grab or just bump the yoke as needed. I watch as they begin to roundout at just the right spot and float in for a smooth landing. It’s amazing!

There is a lot more that the simulator offers, especially if it is used for intentional training but this is the greatest example of the powerful difference it makes. This is why I am devoting significant effort on this website towards helping people to get the most training value out of their home simulators.