View Full Version : Role of desktop flight-sims

13th Sep 2001, 03:20
I know a very detailed 767-300 MS Flightsim add-on that recreates the look and feel of the real FD almost 90% in terms of the instrucments, their usage and which actually work. The package comes with detailed flight and FMC manuals running into a couple of hundred A4 pages. While it is still a theory that the hijackers who flew the aircraft so well and on target could have reaped some (however little) benefit from a desktop flightsim, wouldn't you think its scary that such amounts of detail should be made available to ordinary people at $30 !! If this was proved, would law require immediate withdrawal of such "games" from the market?

My intention is only to spur a healthy debate among the professional community - please do not read any more into this. I have myself been a user of one of these flight sims and found it very enjoyable.

inverted flatspin
13th Sep 2001, 04:26
Having never flown a heavy jet or a Heavy simulator My knowledge in that area is limited however I can say based on the simulator and flying experience that I do have Frasca sim and private licence, IFR student that the PC flight sims are of no use whatsoever. The only thing I find FS2000 useful for is to figure out how to enter holding patterns and figure out navigating by instruments, It is instructive to "fly" the route on the sim before you fly it for real so that you know what to expect in terms of navigation, communication and approaches e.t.c. It teaches you nothing of the stick and rudder skills required. The Frasca is a little better but although it is an approved training device it still gives you nothing in terms of feedback. You could not learn how to fly like those murderous bastards did by just using a PC.

Friends of mine who work for airlines tell me that their first time in a heavy jet sim they fly very badly and only get a feel for the big guys after a few hours of training.

13th Sep 2001, 07:16
I too have the same add on to FS2000, and as a current 767 skipper I can assure you that it is so realistic that I could probably get you to fly the autopilot into a building within ten minutes instruction!

However latest reports are now suggesting that some of the terrorists took flight training in Florida over the recent past. So one suspects a mix of basic and computer training.

As for banning the game? I don't think that would be feasable now that so many sims are available, and anyway if you don't use one tool another is always found.

13th Sep 2001, 07:25
They announced on CNN that the hijackers were trained at flight schools in Florida, one confirmed, the others they are still tracking down with other flights schools in Florida.

Capt PPRuNe
13th Sep 2001, 14:11
As a colleague of Boeing Boy I have to disagree. Whilst these PC games are good and realistic to the point of being able to teach the fundamentals of using this equipment I am certain that anyone with no experience of the flight deck of a heavy jet (or any commercial a/c) would not be able to put their 'computer skills' to use without also having some experience in the actual cockpit.

I have no doubt that the murderers who commited these massacres had some training in a heavy jet simulator. A heavy jet travelling at about 250-300 knots at low level, if you have never sat in the seat of one is a daunting place and as anyone of you who can remember as far back as the first time you sat in that seat how complicated it all seemed.

Like anything, with many months or years of practice and day to day operating these jets we become comfortable with the layout and operation of the many controls. Unless these barbarians were already airline pilots, which I find almost impossible to comprehend as possible, they must have had some basic sim training, even if only a few hours to be able to direct these a/c into their targets.

I was upset by a reporter, on C4 I think, yesterday who had a PC flight sim, and sitting smugly in his chair, legs crossed and talking to camera, showed how 'easy' it was with his experience of the computer program to guide the computer a/c into the WTC using his piddly little handheld joystick. Just typical piece of pathetic tabloid type 'news' with the reporter trying to impress his gullible viewers of how easy it really was... NOT.

These heinous killers received some training from someone, probably unwittingly, and all the 'know it all' wantabes who have never experienced the control of a heavy jet but believe that they could do it becuase of their computer skills should wind their necks in as it is increasingly angering the rest of us who do this for real and are mourning the loss of colleagues under exceptional circumstances.

Those who can do. Those who can't pretend they can. :mad:

13th Sep 2001, 14:31
I wondered how long it would take before some sick sonofabitch perpetrated this stunt on television. I'm afraid that this whole catastrophe is bringing out the best and the worst aspects of human nature.

13th Sep 2001, 15:38
With the greatest respect to CaptPPrune, I have to agree with Boeing Boy.

Whilst I have no respect for our media friend who proceeded to do it on TV, I believe that coordinated people with limited actual flight experience could do this. Not even a PPL required just an hour in the right hand seat of a jet, be it a Citation Bravo or a Lear 45 or something equally small. Most glass cockpits are easy to drive in autopilot of you know what to do and where you are.

Try X-plane or FS2000, they even have all the enroute info for you, VOR's, NDB's et al. The GPS is also accurate.

A tragedy made simpler to accomplish by the wonders of modern technology, all for $39.99.

The world will never be the same again.

13th Sep 2001, 16:05
I agree with CaptPPRuNe , I was also sickened by last night's CH4 News reporter's actions.
This was broadcast at approx. 1830gmt , long before the UK's "watershed" for TV violence.

13th Sep 2001, 17:44
Which 767 add-in are you talking about? I see one from Wilco called "767 Pilot in Command" http://www.wilcopub.com/767_MFS.htm
and one from Feel Right Flight http://www.feelrealflight.com/sections/aircraft/AA767/AA_767_main.htm

Thank you.

Pete Otube
13th Sep 2001, 18:17
"You haven't got to be superhuman. You don't need a brilliant academic mind," says John O'Hara, Chief Flying Instructor at the BBC staff club's flying section.

If you can drive a car, then with sufficient training, you can do it

John O'Hara
Flying instructor
Learning basic flying skills in a light aircraft is something many people pick up very quickly, he says.

"What you need is someone that is sensible, alert, has good eye-hand coordination and motivation."

"If you can drive a car, then with sufficient training, you can do it," he told BBC News Online.

Training programme

But obviously there are differences between the kind of flying done in a small plane in good visibility and the kind needed to move a modern airliner around safely.

Cockpits across Boeing's range of airliners are similar

Potential commercial pilots training in the UK take two years to qualify.

"You could go to the Oxford Air Training School at Kidlington, put down your 40,000, and they'd take you through the private pilot's licence, into the commercial stage and qualification," said Mr O'Hara.

But much of that training is of an academic nature.

"The mechanical skills don't tend to cause people problems. It's the academic bit that takes time."

Cockpit similarities

Commercial pilot training would typically involve learning to fly a small, twin-engined plane, then a conversion course for a specific airliner.

Taking off and landing is the tricky bit

John O'Hara
Flying instructor
"You do what is called multi-crew conversion. You really do need more than one person on the flight deck of an airliner," he says.

Companies like Boeing and Airbus Industrie try to keep the controls of their aircraft similar or identical across their range, to minimise the amount of familiarisation needed.


Someone who could fly a relatively small airliner like the Boeing 737 would find the controls of a bigger one like a 757, 767 or 777 familiar.

Commercial pilot training
Two year course
Private Pilot Licence
Commerical training on light twin-engine craft
Multi-crew conversion on simulator
A conversion course needed to teach a newly-qualified commercial pilot how to fly a large plane like a Boeing 767 can be carried out using a commercial flight simulator.

There is no need to have actually flown the real airliner to gain the qualification.

The skills needed to aim an airliner at a building would, of course, be far more basic.

"You haven't got to take it off. You haven't got to land it.

"It's a one-way trip. You don't need to be a skilled pilot: I could teach you in half an hour the skills needed to aim at that tower," Mr O'Hara explained.

Simulation games

There has been speculation that flight simulation software on home computers could have been useful to those who destroyed the World Trade Center.

" I suspect that that wouldn't be sufficient," said Mr O'Hara.

"I've got one on my laptop and, do you know, I find them pretty difficult to fly."

He said that someone who had learnt to fly a very simple type of aircraft and then sat in a commercial cockpit simulator would have been able to aim the airliners used in the US attacks.

"Quite honestly, you could just get a big scale photo of the cockpit and look at where everything is," he said.

Landing the 'tricky bit'

"The things that are difficult to teach in flying are judgement, timing and control.

"People make huge progress in early exercises, but taking off and landing is the tricky bit," he added.

Finding the World Trade Center towers should not have been too difficult for the hijackers.

"Navigation is fairly simple. It's far easier in the air than on the ground and if you're not too dim it's not a problem."

The hijackers may well have had knowledge of how to use radio navigation beacons to work out their position and find New York, Mr O'Hara said.

[ 13 September 2001: Message edited by: Pete Otube ]

13th Sep 2001, 19:18
I am a B-737 Capt for Southwest, and I am also a fan of the current generation of flight sims (My kids are aces on CFS-2 already!).

It is my opinion, that given the circumstances on tuesday, that a few hours of manual study, coupled with a few hours of PC sim time and actual light plane flying, that it is entirely possible to do what they did.

They took the aircraft in trimmed cruise/climb flight, in near CAVU conditions. Anyone with rudimentary flying skills would be able to either disengage the autopilot and steer it towards a huge 1200' target. A Boeing is not a fighter. If they had any clue, they could just have engaged heading mode and used the AP. As it was CAVU, they didn't need to know much beyond how to disengage the AP and operate the yoke. Any Cessna pilot could do that. I also belive that if you can fly one of the better PC flight sims, then you can also do that.

They weren't worried about altitude, heading, or flight plan deviations. They also weren't required to shoot Cat2 ILS approaches, V-1 cuts, holds etc......

My best friend is a tracon controller in JFK, and was working departures during the incident. He said it was pandemonium (obviously!) for a few minutes. They had turned off the x-ponder on one of them, and the other stayed on it's original sqwawk.

Truly scary times we are living in folks!

Captain Sensible
13th Sep 2001, 19:37
Sorry to disagree, but, just viewing the horrific film of the 2nd a/c approaching the tower, in my humble opinion, it was being flown quite firmly and agressively in pitch and bank in the last few seconds, in order to make the line-up to hit its target.

Nick Figaretto
13th Sep 2001, 20:51
I guess it "could" have been done with only desktop flightsim experience. But the chance of missing would just be too great. (Seen from the terrorists' point of view :()

This was a well planned, and well coordinated attack. And the result was two extremely precise hits in a one-shot-chance at the WTC, and one on the Pentagon. I don't think the terrorists would have "run the risk" of failing by not having prepared themselves well enough.

If the question is if this could be done again by a psychopath who's only resource is a PC game, I guess the anwer is yes. But his chance of "succeeding" would be extremely limited.

If the question is if the attacks on WTC and Pentagon were performed by people who's only training was on on a PC game and maybe a few hours in a small GA airplane, the answer is definitely no.


13th Sep 2001, 21:38
I have been using MSFS2K for about a year now and have recently been taking flying lessons to work toward my PPL.

Although MSFS2K is great for learing procedures and navigation, I was not at all prepared for the actual 'feel' of flying. Furthermore, I was very suprised when I went up for my first lesson in 15-18Kt winds at how much I could feel the yaw in the cross and how difficult is was to coordinate a turn crossing through this. Granted, it didn't take long to get used to this, but that is my point. The sim did me little good with actual stick and rudder, as previous posters had stated.

I have the 767PIC add on, and quite frankly, even though it is very good, I don't use it much as I am just learning basic skills of navigation, engine management (also modeled poorly), and procedure. I'm not interested in screwing around with some virtual FMC for twenty minutes at a time at this point in my learning.


The one thing I did find was much easier outside of a desktop sim, was the flare on landing, having perspective and sense of motion made it much simpler to calculate.

Also, I must add that from what I've read on simillar forums from real ATP's that have MSFS, is that the autopilots, while modeled accurately from a user viewpoint, does not react to inputs very well as compared to the real AP. I don't think anyone could've pulled this off with just a PC sim - even with a thousand PC sim hours.

14th Sep 2001, 02:31
hey guys remember that writing in red at the foot of the page........the flight sim angle in the uk is running big in the newpapers.........cuidado amigos
Peter J

14th Sep 2001, 02:46

Not often we see you so upset!

Q: Can a novice learn to fly a 'Heavy' from a PC-based flight sim?

Well, given that almost all new type ratings start on CBT, FMC and systems etc. then progress to fixed base I would say that you can learn alot of the basics from such programs as FS2000. Even better from such programs as Precision-744 or professional training software all available on the WWW.

To be honest, any would be pilot could fly Boeing family on MCP alone provided that such was engaged and you had a reasonable idea how it worked.

However, do I think the terrorists left this to such PC-training alone -- not a chance. They were trained to do this job in the same way they train bomb makers. If you have the money, will and disipline you can do anything.

I feel total revulsion by this and offer my heart felt condolences to those lost.

14th Sep 2001, 08:35
I have read this thread with interest. I live about 2km from the WTC. The smoke in the air is a constant reminder of the carnage.

I am a CPL holder but fly only privately. I have a M/E instrument rating and am familiar with the 767, having read the manual and used certain FS add-ons. I have also logged 1 hour in a B744 sim. I was able to get a the sim off the ground, fly a 10 mile circuit and shoot a reasonable ILS, with nil wind or turbulence, and some coaching on EPR and flap settings. Once I had become used to the operation of the trim on the sim, the a/c was fairly easy to operate. I believe that if far enough out, it would have been fairly easy to guide those 767s into the WTC with the A/P disengaged, provided the person had a reasonable amount of GA and probably twin experience. It is now clear that the hijackers had this.

Now, landing the a/c, managing fuel, airspace and assymetrics etc would be a very different matter. Indeed, operating the FMS would probably have been tricky. But they didn't need this. People have talked about having a knowledge of the navaids in the area - but I think the solution would have been much simpler. An $800 GPS on the glareshield with a preset waypoint for a point a few miles out in a straight line from the towers would have been all that was needed together with a basic understanding of the MCP. Get the heading from the "goto" button on the GPS (wherever they were when they took over the a/c), spin up the heading and a gradual descent to 2000' on the MCP and I am afraid that would have done it. With the aircraft more or less in trim and given their GA experience, hand flying to the towers from this point would not have been too challenging.

14th Sep 2001, 11:38
Just new to PPrune.

Interesting link I found the other day whilst idly browsing here in YVR.

I think this guy potentially knew more about Boeing EFIS than some newly-typed guys!

Maks you think. Lots of available material out there for all to peruse.

14th Sep 2001, 11:59
Six months ago I decided that with absolutely no flying experience I wanted to be able to fly a 747. <snip> I felt this would be a sufficient challenge and keep my mind occupied in my spare time...

That's quite a story, although I think he needs to get out more :) Shame he doesn't say how the simcheck went.

As a student PPL I've used FS2k a lot in helping me to learn routines, etc., but find it almost useless in actually teaching me to fly. Still very much doubt that these pilots were amateurs.

14th Sep 2001, 12:44
I guess this thread has run it's course but to summarise I don't think anyone is suggesting this dastardly act was committed by amateurs with no flight experience. What is being suggested is that some of the orientation issues were made simpler to practise and easier to keep secret with thebhelp of readily available gizmos such as hand held GPS and PC FS software.

14th Sep 2001, 23:18
Yes this thread has run its course. Please file it in the 'speculative theories' section, to the right of the 'knee-jerk' section (with the bomb proof cabin door threads) and next to the empty thread that doesn't focus on the elimination of organized terrorism. :rolleyes: