I have always had an interest in flying airplanes. Not just radio control airplanes but the real thing. While it sounds like fun to fly real planes, the cost and risking my life have kept me from giving it a go! I have found a way to satisfy my interest in a safer and much less expensive way! I have been a flight sim enthusiast since 1980. Growing up, our family had an Apple II computer and we had the SubLogic Flight Simulator 1 (FS1). Can you imagine viewing a 12″ monochromatic screen (black & green) and experiencing flight using a 5 1/4″ floppy disc with a computer that had something like 32K of memory! Over the years, new versions were made available as technology improved. Today’s flight simulator experience offers so much reality that flight training schools and airlines use them to train their pilots.
Recently I have switched over from Microsoft Flight Simulator X to the X-Plane platform. This is a great product and works with both PC & MAC. For years I have enjoyed flying around and experiencing flight by myself in the empty skies BUT, this year I have signed up with a virtual airline and basic flight school. There are many of these virtual airlines that have flight schedules, a fleet of planes and the various levels of service that the user can experience. Take a look at Air Northwest or California Air websites to get an idea of what I am talking about. These Virtual Airlines operate from a number of airport hubs with a fleet of 30 or 40 different aircraft designed in their own corporate brand livery.
As a virtual employee, the pilot is assigned to a “home” base operation (airport hub) and is required to fly a minimum number of flights each month to stay current and satisfy the corporate paper pushers. Starting out as a trainee, the pilot is required to fly and pass a series of training exercises and test to be approved and certified to fly with the airlines. Once training is completed, a number of flight hours must be accomplished flying the “Cargo” division with a limited number of aircraft types ranging from small prop jobs to large airline size cargo jets. The pilot is not allowed to fly passengers or any airline routes other than cargo until they have completed the minimum number of approved hours with the Cargo division.
The adventure goes on and on without end as you can select hundreds of different airports to fly to and from along with a variety of planes. If you get tired of the airline flights, creating your own charter flight schedule is acceptable with many of the airlines. There are even old WW II Planes to fly on missions. If you want to try your hand at Air Traffic Control (ATC) there are virtual simulators and organizations for that too! To learn more about Virtual Airlines (V/A) and flight simulation, checkout the links in this article and enjoy.