The pool of future professionals
Taking the controls of an airplane via cellphone, tablet, or computer is, for any air transport enthusiast, an activity that is always appealing. Although this report’s thesis categorically states that aviation simulation is not a game – as demonstrated in the previous chapters – it cannot be denied that, when leaving the professional field, the line separating simulators from video games is not always clear-cut. Whether a program or application is a simulator or a simple video game is delimited by the software on one side of the border or the other. This concept is linked to a magic word: realism.
The amateur simulator market is very diverse. The decisive factor is the degree of realism with which air operations are emulated. A phone application that allows a Boeing 747 to take off without apparent problems from a runway as short as the one at the famous Lukla Airport in Nepal is not the same as software capable of putting the user in the shoes of a crew that has to deal with an engine failure with total fidelity. In this case, the degree of realism is determined not only by the behavior of the aircraft but also by the analysis of how it flies and whether the systems respond exactly as a real aircraft would.

In this second group of programs, the real flight simulators are found, those that move away from the concept of a video game. Perhaps the greatest exponent (due to its popularity) is Microsoft’s Flight Simulator saga, which in 2020 was revived after a long break of almost 15 years. However, there are many more: DCS, X-Plane, Prepar3D, Aerofly, IL-2 Sturmovik…

Microsoft Flight Simulator is so successful and offers such good graphic performance that it has a proven record for simulating real operations (e.g., for general and sports aviation pilots). “One of our most interesting projects is the first flight simulator based on the new Microsoft software, Flight Simulator 2020, which will be available to all pilots who want to practice ultralight, sport, and, above all, VFR (visual) flight, since Flight Simulator offers spectacular advantages in terms of scenarios,” said Oscar Mateos, Virtual Fly’s Marketing and Sales Director.

Transcript: «Among our range of simulation products there are many different products from the typical Yoke that a person can use at home to the most powerful simulator and let’s say replica that could be, for example, a simulator that we are now manufacturing for Kodiak. Among them is, right now, one of the most interesting projects in Spain, which is the first flight simulator based on the new Microsoft software, the Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, and this simulator will be used by all those pilots at Virtual Fly who want to practice ultralight and sport flying and above all VFR flying since, as many know, the Microsoft Flight Simulator has some spectacular advantages in terms of scenery.»


In addition to all these simulators, many other projects allow users to increase their search for realism thanks to the opportunities offered by the Internet. Two examples are the IVAO and Vatsim networks, which interconnect thousands of users to act as pilots or virtual air traffic controllers who try to emulate real procedures. “We have a handful of interconnected servers people can connect to from their homes through their simulators. They connect to our servers to see each other flying in their respective aircraft. We also provide air traffic control services to those pilots. Our controllers follow real-world procedures, which puts us in a virtual world that tries to mimic real aviation,” explained Matt Bartels, Vatsim’s vice president of marketing and communications.

For more than two decades, these networks have provided opportunities for young people to explore the aviation industry through simulation, and many end up as professionals in the aviation industry. “Our motto at IVAO is as real as it gets. We currently have up to two generations of engineers, pilots, and air traffic controllers who have gone through IVAO and are currently working in the sector,” proudly said Elías Herrero, director of the Spanish Division of IVAO. Although it may be a difficult hobby to explain (compared to others that are much more popular), devoting time to this type of tool (on the computer, tablet, or cellphone) can awaken curiosities that eventually materialize in quality jobs and a substantial paycheck. Therefore, flight simulation is not a game.

Listen to this special feature on Aerovía
“Flight simulation is not a game” is a journalistic work in a double format (podcast and multimedia report on the web) that, therefore, can be read and listened to. Do not miss the special double chapter of Aerovía (in Spanish only), with all these soundbites and many more: