Tips for Flight in Microsoft's Flight Simulator XThis article has been a long time coming — or at least that’s what those within the Gnomies community would have you believe. I’ve been virtually flying on and off since around 2002, and I’ve logged well over 5,000 hours in the virtual sky for various virtual airlines. In 2009, I decided that I was going to hang up my wings for good and never go back to the world of virtual aviation. I’ve been lured back into the fold and, in so doing, have brought a new virtual airline into the virtual world. GnomeAir is the name of the fledgling airline and it is for members of the Gnomies community.

I thought I’d start with an article on tips for flight. These tips are meant for the novice Flight Simulator X pilot. I know most of you will want to start on the jet aircraft like a Boeing 747 or 737. However, my first tip would be to go for a smaller prop — or propeller-driven — aircraft like a Beechcraft King Air 350 or a Cessna 172. The prop aircraft are slower, so you can afford to make mistakes in them because they give you longer to react to any situation.

Have you set up auto pilot?

This is best to do on the ground before you push back from a stand and certainly before you take off. I would only recommend using auto pilot if you are flying for long distances where hand flying could become fatiguing. If you are flying between major cities, then auto pilot is certainly a good idea, but if you are only flying a circuit pattern, then it’s a better idea to hand fly your aircraft.

Have you flown the pattern or a circuit?

The circuit pattern — known in America as the traffic pattern — is a pilot’s bread and butter. This pattern is a standard path and way to coordinate air traffic. The pattern is really only used by airports that deal with general aviation as well as commercial aviation traffic. This seems to be the case both in the United States as it is in the United Kingdom. I have flown many circuits and I will continue to fly the pattern because it keeps certain skills sharp.

Have you tried flapping harder?

I am being serious. Have you added anywhere between five and 20 degrees of flaps on take off? It sounds counter-intuitive, but it really does help on take off. Using flaps trades ground speed for climb rate because flaps increase drag. It is always best to consult the aircraft handbook in real life and in the virtual sky because these virtual aircraft can act the same way as their real life counterparts. I know that the Airbus A319 likes having 15-20 degrees of flaps for takeoff, but I also know that Cessna doesn’t recommend the use of flaps on takeoff unless the runway is rough or soft.

Remember: Under 10,000 ft., your speed is under 250 knots!

This is a classic rookie/novice mistake. 250 knots is the speed limit for all aircraft under 10,000 ft. The only reason you would have to go over this rule is if you are flying a heavy aircraft. Heavy aircraft usually need a higher speed to climb to keep them within the safe flight envelope. However, even though heavy aircraft are allowed to go faster, it’s not by all that much — meaning that you can’t get away with adding “heavy” to your call sign and expect that you can go at 300+ knots under 10,000 ft.!

Landing speeds

This is also a classic rookie/novice mistake. If you are landing — in any aircraft — at 250 knots, you will be putting an extreme amount of pressure on your brakes and/or reverse thrust when you land. This may end up with you flying off the end of the runway — pun not intended. When landing, it is a good idea to slow your aircraft down to a minimum approach speed. This is generally around 10 or 20 knots above the stall speed of the aircraft. The slower you land, the better and safer it is for you, your aircraft, and your virtual passengers — that is assuming you’re carrying any.

Taxi speeds

This is the last classic rookie/novice mistake. If you have never flown a plane before or even taxied it out to a runway, you won’t know that there is a taxi speed limit. The limit ranges between 20 and 30 knots, but that depends on the airport. However, I could be wrong in this aspect as I’ve not seen any mention of any speed above 22 knots. I do remember being allowed to taxi up to 30 knots whilst I was on VatSim, but from what airport and what zone I am not really sure. However, it is safe to say that 20 is the speed limit. In real life, you can and will get fined if you go over that speed limit.

I could go into many more aspects of flight with Flight Simulator X, but if I did, I fear that I’d bore you too much. This is only a very small set of tips that should help you get off the ground within Flight Simulator X. I hope that I have not made this overly complicated for the novice or overly patronising for the more advanced pilot within Flight Simulator X. There will be many more articles to come from within this simulator and I hope that you can all appreciate them.

The idea behind these articles is to pass on information that I and other members of the LockerGnome community have gained over the years of experience playing with Flight Simulator 2002 all the way up to Flight Simulator X. We may even get into Microsoft Flight, which is the new iteration of the Flight Simulator family. The next few articles will deal with payware and freeware aircraft as well communicating with air traffic control. If you have any requests with regards to Flight Simulator X you can contact me via Twitter @thisdamnscots and I will endeavour to fulfill your requests.

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