Before student pilots are allowed to fly a real plane, they’ll have to go through several hours of flight simulator training. This specialized training gives them a safe environment where they can learn how to properly operate the aircraft under various flight conditions. This allows them to gain a bit of experience flying a plane through inclement weather like storms, thick fog, and snow. It’ll also help students improve their quick-thinking skills when facing emergencies since flight simulators can recreate dangerous scenarios, like a malfunctioning engine and harsh turbulence, without putting the students’ lives in real danger.
To ensure that their students are getting quality flight simulation training, many aviation schools use two different types of flight simulators: full-motion and fixed-based. Although both systems help student pilots hone their skills, they don’t totally work the same way. As a student pilot, it’s important to know the differences between full-motion and fixed-base flight simulators. This way, you’ll know what to expect when you enter your first flight simulator training sessions in either of these simulations.
Let’s take a look at how different fixed-base flight simulators are from their full-motion simulator counterparts and vice versa.
Fixed-Base Flight Simulators
Like what their name says, fixed-base flight simulators are flight training devices that don’t move. They’re designed with a grounded base and are made to look like the cockpit of a particular type of aircraft, usually the B737 or A320. Fixed-base flight simulators have to be certified by the local civil aviation authority (CAA) or a certifying authority with international scope like the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) or the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to be used for pilot training. However, there are uncertified flight training devices that can be purchased. These are mainly used for the public’s entertainment, as well as for aviation enthusiasts who want to set up a flight simulation room at home.
Although fixed-base flight simulators are stationary, they’re sophisticated enough to make students feel like they’re moving. Using high-tech visual and audio systems, these devices can make the simulation session as realistic as possible. What’s more, there are fixed-base flight simulators that come with a wraparound screen to make the experience more immersive.
You might be wondering why students have to use fixed-base flight simulations to learn how to pilot a lane when they can hop on a full-motion flight simulator. You would think they would learn the same things, but that’s not always the case.
One thing fixed-base flight simulators are very good at is teaching student pilots the valuable lesson of properly conducting a flight’s standard operating procedures (SOPs). Students need to familiarize themselves with a flight’s SOP because it helps ensure the safety and success of a flight. These types of flight simulators also help students build a good habit of reviewing their takeoff and landing protocols to avoid causing problems on the runway or in the skies.
Full-Motion Flight Simulators
Full-motion flight simulators are training devices that move. It’s a simple description for a system that’s designed to give student pilots a more realistic and more immersive flight experience than what fixed-base flight simulators can provide. These flight simulators are designed to be fully enclosed and come with the equipment and instruments one can find in a cockpit. They’re programmed to give student pilots the sensation of flying a plane, thanks to their three or six-degrees-of-freedom flight motion. This means that when a student pilot steers the aircraft’s yoke, they’ll be immediately made aware of what it truly feels like to pilot a plane.
Training in a full-motion flight simulator helps students develop valuable skills that are necessary to become a commercial airline pilot. Since this device is made to simulate the motion of a moving plane, students will improve their reaction times and be more attentive to responding to motion cues. This way, student pilots will be able to sense disturbances the aircraft may be experiencing and quickly make the right decisions to handle the problem. Another skill full-motion flight simulators teach is getting used to the feeling of being in the air. The psychological sensations felt in flight can be disorienting, so in order for student pilots to be accustomed to this environment, they need to take full-motion flight training.
Full-motion flight simulators come in different levels, but the best one is level D. Flight training devices that are certified level D simulators have the highest certification local or international certifying authorities can issue. This could also mean that one hour of flight on board a level D full-motion flight simulator equates to one hour of actual flight in terms of training hours.
Why Is There a Need to Train Using Both Flight Simulators?
Training using both fixed-base and full-motion flight simulators might seem excessive. However, as an aspiring student pilot, being able to learn from both types of flight training devices is a great opportunity. Not only will you acquire the skills needed to operate commercial aircraft properly, but you’ll also develop good habits and self-discipline that can help you in your career.