From the 1903 Wright Flyer to the 777-8 Freighter, a lot has changed in aircraft, and along the way, a lot has also changed in the way pilots are trained. Compared to the technology used to train pilots today, student pilots of the past might as well have been sitting in front of a fan in a cardboard box with crayon drawings of instruments as they made engine noises and imagined themselves soaring through clouds made of cotton balls.
Although you might think that’s a stretch, the training experiences of today’s student pilots would certainly blow the Wright brothers’ minds.
What it is: A flight simulator is a machine specifically designed in the style of a cockpit so that pilots and pilots in training can use computer-generated images to practice flight, including the same tools and aircraft motion they would use and experience during actual flight.
Flight simulators have been around for a while, with the first flight simulator called the Link being used around 1929. The flight simulators of today are quite different from the Link of 1929 and are even considerably more advanced than the Microsoft games of the 80s. In fact, some of the more advanced flight simulators have been a part of helping aspiring pilots learn become accustomed to flight for decades. Some flight simulators are even so advanced that the FAA will allow student pilots to log their simulator time in their pilot logbook as training time.
What it is: Virtual reality is a 3 dimensional environment generated by a computer that allows a person to interact in a physical way with a 360° view of their environment by using special equipment (a headset and sensor gloves).
Virtual Reality is another step forward in traditional flight simulation. In this type of flight training, the student pilot is fully immersed in an environment that looks and feels real. They can turn their head and see the cockpit around them. As a result, these students experience enormous learning advantages over a more traditional flight simulation.
What it is: The internet, technology, and the digital realm create an immense amount of data about pilot training techniques and their results.
Because so much data is available, studies are continuously completed to analyze the effectiveness of the current standards in pilot training. As a result, the aircraft and pilot training industries have the chance to train in more effective, efficient ways that make flying safer for everyone.
Certainly, if the Wright brothers could step into a flight training school today, they would not believe their eyes. Their plane was made from timber that they covered with fabric, and today, pilots train based on data and using technology that simulates flying in such a realistic fashion that even experienced pilots say they’re engaged by it. As technology changes the way pilots learn to fly, the industry can only grow and improve.