Through our involvement with both the flight simulation community, and members of the professional flight training industry, we have had the opportunity to hear many misconceptions and misunderstandings about pc-based helicopter flight simulation. Some of these misconceptions are perpetuated by individuals that are simply uninformed, or inexperienced, while other misconceptions are perpetuated by professionals who's insterests are threatened by PC-based helicopter flight simulation.
Top misconceptions regarding PC-based Helicopter Flight Simulation
#1 - Microsoft Flight Simulator is not approved or certified by the FAA or JAA for flight training.
Untrue. It is important to understand that the FAA and JAA do not approve products like Microsoft Flight Simulator for training. This is not how it works. These authorities approve flight training devices, which can be ran on any number of different simulation softwares. Microsoft Flight Simulator has been used on more than one helicopter flight training devices which have been approved by various aviation and defense authorities (ie. FAA, JAA, DOD) for specific training uses.
#2 - PC-based flight simulation is not useful because there is no motion involved.
Untrue. Several top aviation simulation and training companies are currently challenging this long standing myth. Most flight training devices under $300K in cost do not incorporate motion simulation. Scientific research has proven that motion in flight simulation is not necessary for higher quality training. In many cases, the motion is inaccurate, and can actually impede training activities. The industry is moving towards other sensory stimulation techniques that are proving to be more important than motion for encouraging immersion. Stimulation techniques such as sound wave, and vibration and resistance feedback. Manufacturers of multi-million dollar "full flight simulators" are naturally against the idea of dispensing with motion simulation. As it is a threat to their interests.
#3 - PC-based Simulation only creates bad habits that have to be un-learned later under the guideance of a flight instructor.
This is a myth. There is no evidence to support this belief. It is likely perpetuated by flight instructors that are out of date with the advances in technology. Rather than embracing new tools for learning, they are avoiding them and ignoring them. At their own peril. If an instructor is more than happy to recommend a stack of books, or a pre-packaged video/dvd based training kits to their new students, then they have to accept that flight simulation is just another tool that is highly useful in the education of a new pilot. For every bad habit a student might espouse, the opportunity for good habits to be developed is much larger.
#4 - The helicopter flight model is unrealistic, it is nothing like flying a real helicopter
Pilots say the same thing about the $300k flight training devices used at aviation academies. The fact is that most first-time users of home pc-based flight simulation lack the experience or the proper equipment and configuration to make this judgement. However, it is correct to say that the flight models used by PC flight simulators and $300k flight training devices are not perfect. Every software driven helicopter flight model is going to have areas of excellence, and shortcomings as well. Typically, the shortcomings are at the edge of the normal flight envelope, and would not keep anyone from participating in generally realistic flight practices.
#5 - PC-based helicopter flight simulators are just games, and are not professionaly useful.
When the first PCs were made available to the public, they were considered to be useful only to hobbyists. The practical application they possessed was widely underestimated. Despite this, they grew into indispensible tools for any number of daily tasks. That is the case with modern PC-based helicopter flight simulation software as well. Many people's only experience with this type of flight simulation is several years old, and might have taken place on a "straight out of the box" installation, with tacky hardware, and on a poorly configured personal computer with mediocre performance and graphics capabilities. That experience in no way reflects what is currently possible with the right information and a reasonable budget.