There are so many flight simulators on the market that finding one that meets the needs of a flight student can be a challenge.
The Federal Aviation Administration has outlined the criteria necessary for a PC-based simulator to be classified as FAA-certified. Those guidelines specify, in great detail, what capabilities simulation software needs to possess in order to be used as a flight training aid for students.
The regulations begin by outlining the guidelines for both physical and virtual aircraft controls. Physical controls must be recognizable and identical to those found in a real aircraft. They must give clear indication as to how they can be manipulated and used by the pilot. In addition, the computer keyboard had to be eliminated from flight operations since there are no keyboards in real aircraft.
Virtual controls should be eliminated in all but a few situations. These include entering location or wind parameters, setting aircraft configuration, and starting, stopping, or pausing the simulator program itself.
Additionally, users should be able to assign physical controls to functionally control the virtual aircraft. Controls like yokes, joysticks, or rudder pedals for example.
In an accurate simulation with the best flight simulator cockpits, the controls must not only be physical, but also respond in a timely manner. For example, the delay needs to be 300 milliseconds or less. Though this is a strict requirement, there is a strong chance that FAA inspectors will not verify it themselves. At the start of the program, the computer itself will be required to verify the response time, and if there is a significant delay, a warning should be displayed.
Within the simulator certain readouts must be displayed and be available for use by the trainee pilot, and these can include an adjustable altimeter (conforming to FAA standards), heading indicator, and of course the airspeed indicator. Along with the obvious features, your software should be able to record the horizontal and vertical track of the ‘aircraft’ movement so that it can be played back later. Such footage may be used for training purposes, or for your enjoyment.
The above items are very important in a flight simulator, and it is even more important that they do not appear out of focus. The display type should be upgraded from CRT to LCD or LED if possible to provide a better viewing experience. Simulator controls need to conform to FAA standards and provide a smooth experience.
The general purpose for the best flight simulator can range from fun to genuine flight training. In the event you are using a flight simulator to train for a test, it will need to conform to these standards and will more than likely be inspected by an FAA official. The price for creating your own flight simulator will be high, but conforming to FAA standards will be well worth it.