Hi Capt Lim,
Wonderful site! I am sure you must have heard that about a million times by now!
Personally, I love flying. I will repeat that I just love flying! I have got far too many passenger anecdotes, but I will stop after saying that my favorite flight was in 1st class on an L-1011 (with backward facing seats and a table, no less! :)
Unfortunately, I have never had the resources or opportunity to be able to take up the business in reality. So, I use simulators. I probably fly almost daily on the Microsoft's FS 2002, and it is as close as I will get. I kinda want to strive for as much realism as is possible, sitting behind a monitor in the study room.
If it is okay with you, I have a few basic questions that would greatly help me in enjoying my flight simulation more. I hope you are able to answer them, and it would be wonderful to know that there is a real pilot out there helping me!
1. According to the FS 2002, FAA regulations in the US limit airspeed to under 250kts below 10,000 feet. Is this a global restriction or just applied in the USA?
2. Do you guys for real, navigate using GPS all the time? When you are flying, how often do you rely on VOR or NDBs? I am guessing that it is probably very a rare thing these days, but hey...sometimes it feels like cheating to just load the computer with a GPS IFR route and let ATC talk me through the whole thing. Kinda feels like I should be doing more, you know?
3. Regarding the autopilot....when flying in the simulator, I tend to pretty much throw the autopilot on very shortly after takeoff, having preloaded it with my cruising altitude and a climbing rate of about 1400 or 1500 feet per minute. Once ATC starts giving me the new headings, I would just punch those information into the autopilot and pretty much let the plane do it's thing. Does that follow what really happens, or are you guys in control during initial climbing?
That's about all I can think of just now. I would just like to feel that I am getting a little closer to reality when I'm 'playing' at it.
I hope to hear from you soon, Take care, and clear skies to you....
I can see that you are very enthusiastic about simulator flying. Well, simulators are great procedural trainers but nothing can actually be compared to the real life flying on the airplane. You would be surprised to know that, my son, a non pilot, flies better than me in the flight simulator because he is so used to playing computer games!
Here are the answers to your questions:
1. A speed restriction of 250 knots below 10,000 feet is applied in many parts of the world, especially when the traffic is heavy, but if the airspace is light with very few traffic, the restriction is not imposed. The main reason is that it is easier to space aircraft when they are flying slower, and hence safer for all concerned.
2. The GPS or global positioning system, is installed in all later aircraft models, the Boeing 777 being one of them. There are still some aircraft flying around without the GPS installed yet. The GPS is so far, the most accurate navigation system. Usually two systems are on at all times unless they become unserviceable.
The NDBs (non directional beacons) are almost Jurassic now but still used in many less developed countries. They are not very accurate and subjected to many errors. The VORs (very-high-frequency omni-directional radials) are still being used for radial tracking and cross-checking when the airplanes are using the GPS for navigation.
3. On the Boeing 777, the autopilot can be selected on at 200 feet above ground level after take off. Most of the time, the pilot would make use of the autopilot on the climb because it eases the workload of the crew especially during an emergency. Sometimes, a pilot may elect to fly manually during the climb just to get his hands on the control column or to maintain his proficiency because during a flight test, one of the exercise calls for flying without the aid of autopilot. Otherwise, the autopilot is engaged throughout most of the flight. It is smoother, more economical and safer with the autopilot on. In fact, in really bad weather with very limited visibility, the autopilot even lands the aircraft by itself. The pilot only resumes control of the aircraft after it has safely landed on the Runway.
The challenge is actually flying the aircraft manually but it is the autopilot, being such an accurate system, that often takes the fun out of flying!
Happy flying to you always!