Flight Sims for IFR Practice

I know a few people who use flight sims to keep their IFR skills sharp. I don’t have my IFR rating (yet) so I just use them to fly around.

I use Microsoft Flight Simulator. Which is now end of life. So what are the other options out there? I’ve been able to find two.

X-Plane is the flight simulator. It runs on all platforms, has pretty good graphics, and is extremely accurate. So accurate in fact that it has been approved by the FAA (and I think Transport Canada) for use in Flight Training Devices. Toronto Airways uses X-Plane and hardware from PFC for their certified simulator.

You can do some pretty neat stuff, like fly the shuttle (doing an approach in that thing from 110,000′ is impossible), to buzzing around on Mars.

The cost of the software is $30 for the desktop version. I haven’t tried the mobile version (for $10) and have no idea who useful it really would be for training.

The other contender is FlightGear. This is an open source flight simulator which means that anyone is able to contribute code to engine to improve it. I’ve only had a few hours of experience flying in FlightGear and it does the trick for practicing IFR approaches. For $0 you can’t complain really.

Which brings me to another point about FlightGear. It’s free and the code is open source for anyone to use and resell. There has been some talk on the internet lately about people taking FlightGear, rebranding it, and then selling it for $50. I suspect they are trying to take advantage of everyone jumping off the MS Flight Sim ship. Keep in mind, these people are not adding any additional functionality or improvements to the core FlightGear engine.

Although technically nothing is wrong with taking an open source application and reselling it for money, there is the moral aspect. Not only are you selling someone’s other work, you’re ripping people off by making the pay for something they can get for free.

So, if you’re looking for a flight sim. Either use X-Plane from x-plane.com or FlightGear from flightgear.org. Don’t get ripped off!

5 Responses

  1. Adam says:

    I still use FSX mostly with the 737 and 767 PIC due to great realism and flight models.

    To keep it more real I fly on the VATSIM network to get live atc. It’s all based on free software and not sure if you use it or not.

    Before I used to do an IFR ride I would hand fly the stock beech baron doing holds and approaches and after hours of that the real thing was so much easier because the airplane handled so much better.

    But anyone seeing this look up vatsim.net and you will have a ton of fun.

    Cheers

  2. Blake says:

    Hey Adam,

    I’ve used vatsim before, it *is* pretty cool.

    I’m thinking of getting my IFR rating this summer, so I want to practice up as much as possible for “free” so that I can do it in the least amount of time possible.

    I don’t care much for graphics, since 80% of the time I hope to be in IMC 😉

    I’m thinking of getting a yoke and pedals.. Not a big fan of the joystick.

  3. Wade Chafe says:

    Hi I just want to point out that there is a big difference between open source and public domain. With public domain you can do what you want, but open source doesn’t mean that. It just means that the source code is openly available. Open source projects typically have restrictions on use, most common is code released under GPL. FlightGear is released under the GNU GPL, which means that everyone may edit, change, or use models, source and textures freely. Most planes and scenery are also released under GPL. In this respect it’s no different from commercial software. The authors retain their intellectual property rights (by default, they don’t have to express this) and how you can use the software yourself (if at all) is completely up to the authors. Granted that would be hard to enforce but that’s how it works.

    Perhaps the FlightGear authors have given permission for the software to be sold commercially? I don’t know, I just wanted to point out the important distinction between free software (which retains its intellectual property rights) and public domain, which has none.

  4. Blake says:

    Hi Wade,

    The FlightGear authors have not given permission for the software to be sold commercially.

    They have a FAQ about the whole situation here:

    http://www.flightgear.org/flightprosim.html

  5. Louis says:

    These guys have been selling their stolen software for years. I nearly fell for it years ago but researched because I wondered where the hell a flight sim like that could pop up from which I had never heard about. They have been advertising a lot on facebook lately. I’ll just mention the culprits are flight pro sim so this discussion gets indexed and pops up in research for all to see. 😎