• January 22, 2022

The History of Airplane Simulator Development

The very first flight simulator was built in 1909 to train would-be pilots of the Antoinette monoplane. It was basically an upturned dome on a pivot kept horizontal by operating two pulleys, whilst two assistants rocked it to simulate pitch and roll.

The next major development was the Link Trainer developed by an American, Edwin Link. This had a pneumatic platform driven by bellows which produced pitch and roll with a replica cockpit mounted on the platform. It was taken up by the US Army Air Force following a series of fatal crashes due to a combination of bad weather conditions and inexperienced pilots. The Link Trainer was the nearest thing to real flying up until 1948 when PanAm took delivery of a cockpit simulator which, although completely static, was equipped with exactly the same instruments as a real Boeing 377 Stratocruiser.

The first computer flight-simulation programs did not see the light until the 1960s, and they have only been widely used since the 1980s. These were developed by companies such as IBM, but were, basically, TV screens inserted into replica cockpits, whose image would change as the pilot operated the controls.

Today, flight simulation has advanced considerably, thanks to the progress made in software programs. These programs are used universally by Air Forces, civil airline companies and flight schools. However, the main driving force behind their development comes from another direction entirely – computer games manufacturers.

The computer gamer is a very demanding customer, who does not settle for second best. He wants to feel exactly the same thrills and sensations as if he were flying a real airplane. He wants to choose the aircraft he wishes to fly in and the destination he wishes to go to. He wants to fly in different climatic conditions which can be automatically generated and even wants to experience emergency situations. Thankfully, today’s programmers are able to meet the challenge.

In certain software downloads, you can choose from up to 120 different aircraft and fly to any one of 20,000 real national and international airports. You can fly in good weather or thunderstorms, have a dog-fight with enemy aircraft or suffer engine failure. You can program your own flight-path and are even able to fly over your own house!

So, if you want to experience real-life flying, but, for whatever reason, you aren’t able to actually take off, then test fly a flight simulator.

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