A Flight Simulator is a device that artificially recreates the sensation of flying an aircraft, from the physical sensations all the way to the flight environment, as well as details such as the controls relevant to specific aircraft models.
The flight simulator is equipped to simulate a variety of environmental conditions, including rain, clouds, turbulence, air density, etc. They’re used mostly for training purposes for pilots, although the technology has been used for entertainment purposes as well, for example, in amusement park rides,virtual reality games and slot games with free spins.
Simulators for Different Purposes
There are several different kinds of simulator used in modern flight training. Cockpit procedures are practiced with a CPT, or Cockpit Procedures Trainer. It helps aspiring pilots to become familiar with the controls for various planes, as well as helping them handle emergency situations. Flight simulators for pilots are the most important training tool.
However, pilots are not the only ones using flight simulators. A Vertical Motion Simulator is used by NASA to help astronauts train for the physical impacts of working into space. It is the largest flight simulator in the world, and is located in Silicon Valley in San Francisco. It has a motion variance of 60 feet, which means 30 feet up or down. The way it works is that there’s a horizontal beam mounted on rails that are 40 feet high, and the cabin is mounted on the beam. The cabins are interchangeable, which makes it easier to switch models in order to simulate various aircrafts, whether they are blimps, military craft or commercial planes. It can also model space shuttles.
Flight simulators are also used for disorientation training. The most complex of these devices is called the Desdemona simulator. It is located in the Netherlands, at the TNO Research Institute, and has the ability to create forces up to 3.5 g’s, which are the units for measuring pressure exerted on astronauts by gravity when leaving the atmosphere.
Development of Flight Simulators
Flight Simulators have been around since the early 1900’s, and were initially developed as a way to train pilots in WWI how to shoot from the air. It was in the late 1920s, however, that a pilot named Edwin Link produced the first flight simulator. The machine was appropriately called the Link Trainer, and was a metal frame flight simulator that was shaped like a plane, and was very basic. A generic cockpit model, with working instruments, was inserted into the simulator, and the motion platform allowed pilots to experience real angular motion.
Link had developed the simulator out of dissatisfaction at the kind of training that was available at the time. His family manufactured pianos, and he was familiar with some of the workings needed to build simulators through his understanding of vacuum motors, which are similar to those used in pianos. The Link Trainer was used to train pilots in the Second World War as well. 10,000 of them were produced and used in the training of 500,000 pilots.
The next trainer to be used was the Celestial Navigation Trainer in 1941, and later still, United Airlines purchased four flight simulators in the 1950’s from Curtiss-Wright for a sum of three million dollars. These were the first predecessor’s to modern flight simulators, and included visuals, sound and movement.
Now, there are even online simulators such as GEFS Online, which anyone can use from the comfort of their own home. It’s free of charge, has a realistic flight model, and has a multi-player interface, so users can practice, as well as chat with others around the globe.