Pilots have long required a substantial amount of training to be able to fly commercial airlines, as being in control of a jet often means being responsible for the lives of a number of people. To prepare pilots for hours of time spent controlling massive aircraft, advanced simulation technologies have been used.
As aircraft have continued to develop over the last century, a parallel development has occurred with flight simulators. The first ‘simulators’ involved pilots sitting in a glider before take off, feeling the controls, wind and environment. As they do now with modern simulators, sitting in the aircraft mentally prepared pilots for the task ahead.
Simulations then transitioned to attaching aircraft bodies to balloons, gantries in buildings and railway tracks. The focus through all of these developments was putting the pilot in a position of flying the aircraft while still maintaining pilot safety.
Simulations nowadays are infinitely more complex, involving advanced hydraulic systems and high-fidelity screens to represent the outside world – not to mention recreating every switch and button in a real aircraft. When pilots step into modern simulators, little is different from a real aircraft.
Modern simulators are massive machines, often far larger than a physical plan cockpit. When a pilot pulls back on the control stick, the physical simulator tilts back to represent lift. Likewise, pitching left and right has a similar effect.
Consumers can operate similar flight simulators now for a fraction of the price, and operate them on home computers. While not nearly as comprehensive (or expensive) as the real thing, the ability to experience flight while at home showcases the advancement of the technology in a short space of time.
Simulators are likely to become even more advanced, with virtual reality playing a large role. In place of constructing complex flight simulators, using VR to display a realistic environment of any required plane will likely become standard.