If I were, for some reason, unable to ever fly again, I’d still have the simulator. It may not be not the real thing, but it’s a passion and an experience in itself. And I guess I could still go for a hundred dollar hamburger. I’d load up thr sim with my plane at my home airport, check the weather and head out. Maybe I’d set the weather as perfect, or perhaps I’d set it to minimums and really make it a challenge. After all, there’s no need for personal minimums in the simulator, even though I’d still go through the process of determining if I’d fly given my real world personal minimums. I’d land at an airport over yonder and shut the plane down (or press pause), get up from the computer and light up the grill. Maybe it’s not exactly the same, but enjoying the flight is the reason for enjoying the burger.
The simulator is fun, and challenging, and with today’s technology, it’s surreal just how good a simulator experience can be. Whether I’m flying to enjoy the sim or flying to practice for real world flying, I like to make the two worlds as similar as possible. With the flight models and systems mimicking the real thing quite well, the biggest thing that’s been missing from the sim flight is my iPad with Foreflight – until recent versions of X-Plane. It’s a great tool in the airplane, and given that I use and rely on it there, I should be able to practice and enjoy it in the simulator, too. By connecting my iPad with Foreflight to X-Plane 11, the only thing missing now is the smell of avgas.
Connecting the two systems is really fairly simple. With the computer and the iPad on the same network, it’s just a matter of checking a box in the Network settings in X-Plane. And guess what? I made a video to show you how. Check it out at the bottom of the blog.
For a pilot, spending time with a simulator helps you master some concepts in a much less expensive environment than the airplane. Now we can enjoy the same benefits of mastering Foreflight on the ground. With X-Plane talking to it, Foreflight goes into the ultimate simulation mode for practice. It doesn’t act any differently with the computer feeding it position and movement data than the GPS chip in the iPad sensing the movement. I like to plug in an aircraft profile into Foreflight for the Airfoillabs Cessna 172 I fly in X-Plane 11 (details in the video). Then I get the maximum benefit of Foreflight’s flight planning, glide advisor and time/fuel burn when activating the ruler plotter on the screen (mark two points on the map with your two fingers and the plotter pulls up). Going so much beyond reading the manual and playing with the menus, flying with the sim and iPad connected will get you zipping around Foreflight like a pro in no time.
To take the realism up a notch, try selecting “Download real world weather settings” in the weather settings of X-Plane. This allows the simulator to use real world metar data to model the weather. This gets really cool when combined with Foreflight because the weather you obtain in Foreflight will now be true to the weather modeled in X-Plane. I’ve found that there can be slight discrepancies in the metar X-Plane pulls and the one Foreflight shows. It’s usually minor, and might be for things like cloud layers too close for X-Plane to be able to replicate. Whatever the reason, I’ve found that this actually adds to the realism created with these systems talking to each other. You see, when you get a metar, it’s an observation taken that might be up to an hour old. Conditions have likely shifted just a bit in that time. Wind might have picked up a knot or two, or shifted a few degrees. The clouds may be at a slightly different level. The point is that weather is inherently unpredictable and ever changing, so when it is modeled at times slightly different than expected, that’s the real world for you. Think about shooting an instrument approach and waiting to break out of the clouds. When you have the weather set manually in the sim, you know exactly when you’ll break out. After all, you set the cloud base and it’ll be accurate to the foot. With variable real world weather, it keeps the mystery and suspense settings turned up just a little.
I hope to have many happy years of flying ahead of me, but it’s still good to know I have the world of simulation to enjoy either way. I’ll tell you what, though, if I couldn’t fly for some reason, I’d put all of my flying money into simulation. As in “get a house with an extra bedroom for me to convert to my simulation chamber.” You can come over and shoot some approaches. I’ll get the grill going for when you land. We’ll discuss developing AvGas scented air fresheners. It’ll be glorious.
If you’ve been following along on our X-Plane flight to the Bahamas, we’ve spent each led building on basic navigation techniques. We started with pilotage and dead reckoning as we departed Augusta, GA, and then used VOR Navigation as we approached Savannah and diverted to Hilton Head for the weather. We then flew to Jacksonville using our Garmin 430. Now we head further south along the coast using our connected iPad with Foreflight to navigate. Come see how it works and explore a few of the features in this week’s episode of “Bucket List Flights: Bound For The Bahamas!”
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