Reality Bites – Flight Simulation – Part 2: Books and Manuals

There are many different ideas and reasons to pick up flight simulation as a hobby and I’ve laid out mine in the first part of this series. While most people seem to be interested to fly airliners and start right in an Airbus A320 cockpit, I was much more interested to make the experience as ‘real’ as possible. The appeal of flight simulation to me was to get as close as possible to flying small planes, so I started in a small Cessna with a classic ‘six-pack’ instrument panel. After a week or two, I moved to a Cessna 172 with a a Garmin G1000 ‘glass cockpit’, i.e. electronic instruments. Again a few weeks later, I ‘upgraded’ to a Diamond DA 40 NG 4 seater, also with a Garmin G1000 instrument panel and full autopilot. The flight lessons provided in MSFS2020 are very good for the basics, but to fly as realistically as possible, there’s a lot more to learn. Fortunately, there are many resources, both for real and virtual flying out there and in this episode, I’ll have a look at the classic approach: Getting some books on the topic.

In my case, the order was actually vice versa. I started reading books about flying long before I ever laid my hands on a flight simulator. Many years ago, I bought a Private Pilot License (PPL) instruction book by Winfried Kassera in German (Motorflug Kompakt – Das Grundwissen zur Privatpilotenlizenz). I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge from this book, but until I picked up flying in the simulator, it was pretty much a theoretical approach only. In the first months of flying in the virtual world, I picked up the book almost every day to compare the knowledge taught in there with what is taught in the basic practical flying lessons in the simulator and what can be found on the Internet from other sources. Most of the time, there was a pretty good match between those sources and what I could find in the book, with the book going into more details. I very much liked the approach and still pick it up every now and then to go deeper into some topics.

The second book I can fully recommend is “MS Flight Simulator X For Pilots: Real World Training“. Already written back in 2007 and while, from a simulator point of view, hopelessly outdated, it is nevertheless a marvel because it describes the differences between flying in the real world and flying in the simulator. I very much like the approach and I didn’t mind that the simulator part was not up to date.

Another great resource to learn the ins and outs of a (virtual) plane is to read the (real) documentation for it. There’s tons of information out there for popular planes such as the Cessna 172 and the Diamond DA 40 NG, just to name the two I was flying in the simulator so far, and a quick search for XXX checklist, XXX Pilot Operating Handbook, etc. finds you a lot of PDFs for the real plane. Also, there’s tons of manuals and course documentation out there on the (real) Garmin G1000 glass cockpit and I have yet to find a feature described for the instruments, avionics and autopilot that doesn’t work in the simulator.

So as you might imagine, this is nothing for an evening or two, not in the real world, and not in the simulator, either. Enjoy!