Flight Lesson 14: Sim Time!

The weather hasn’t been cooperating this whole week so Tom suggested we spend some time in the simulator instead.  I never had a chance to use the simulator at Fischer before so I was curious to give it a try.

I arrived at Fischer and Tom said that the topic of the day was an introduction to VHF Omni Directional Radio Range (VOR).  VOR consists of a system of ground based radio beacons that allow triangulation of current flight position and also navigation towards a destination.  I haven’t had a chance to read up yet on the theory of VOR so Tom gave me a short introduction.

I also finished the C172 written exam so Tom graded it in front of me.  I used the Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH) to come up with most of the answers.  I scored a 96%, which was not too bad.  The questions I got wrong were:

1.   What two instruments would be affected by a vacuum system failure?

  • My Answer:  Turn Coordinator and Attitude Indicator
  • Correct Answer:  Heading Indicator and Attitude Indicator

2.  The air supplied to the engine when carburetor heat is applied is:

  • My Answer:  Warmer and less dense
  • Correct Answer:  Warmer, less dense, and unfiltered

Tom also clarified the answers to the following questions:

What is the maximum rated H.P.? at what R.P.M.?

  • It is 160 HP @ 2700 RPM (The POH said 150 HP @ 2700 RPM which is no longer true since N5253R was installed with a newer engine).

What grades and colors of fuel may be used? 

  • 80 octane (red) fuel is no longer available.  Only 100LL (blue) and 100 (green) can be used.

We then proceeded to the simulator.

External view of the simulator. Let’s hope that the fire extinguisher isn’t needed.

I sat down in the simulator and got acclimated to the new environment.  The location and operation of some of the controls and switches are different than in the C172.  Probably because this is a platform neutral simulator.  After a little bit of time, I got comfortable finding everything.

Close up view of the controls.

Tom set me up on runway 4 at KCDW and I proceeded to start the engine and take off and head north to the training grounds over Orange County, NY.  I treated this “flight” as if it were the real thing and took the same actions I would if I were actually flying (i.e. put my hand on the throttle during the takeoff and departure leg).  Tom gave me a bit of advice, which was beware of traffic when heading north and runway 22 is active at KCDW.  This is because traffic heading towards Morristown (KMMU) is likely to be descending on your opposite heading.

Internal view of the simulator. Lined up and waiting on runway.

When I arrived at the training grounds, Tom changed the simulator parameters and placed me in an instant in an unknown area.  I then applied what Tom taught me about the VOR to triangulate my position.  The ground stations I used were Sparta and Huguenot.  After identifying my position, I headed to Sussex Airport (KFWN).   After arriving at the airport, Tom created a broken cloud cover condition below me.  I then proceeded to use the VOR to navigate towards Greenwood Lake Airport (K4N1).

With a snap of the fingers, Tom put me on final approach toward KCDW (not sure what runway it was).  Not my best landing, but I got her on the ground.

My simulator observations:

  • Be constantly on the look out for carburetor icing.  I’m not sure if this is a quirk of the simulator or Tom programmed it in, but my carburetor kept on icing up.  This was evidenced by a noticeable drop in engine RPM.  Adding carburetor heat made this go away
  • The controls are much more sensitive in the simulator than in real life
  • This is a motion simulator.  For example, when I used the rudder pedals, I could actually feel the yaw.  It felt so cool that I sometimes found myself using the rudder when I really didn’t need to!
  • Elevator trimming was trickier when compared to the real thing since there was no pressure on the controls (due to forces on the control surfaces) to relieve.

I definitely see the advantages to the simulator.  Mainly, the ability to put yourself in different scenarios in an instant.  Plus, you’re able to log the sim time.  It helps too that sim time is cheaper than actual C172 time.  Although I prefer the real thing, I’m looking forward to returning to the simulator in the future.