Flight simulation can be incredibly fun, immersive, and educational not to forget the immense satisfaction that you get from pulling off your planned flight. This is also a hobby and/or a training tool that requires a lot of learning, knowledge and experience. Need help getting started? Here’s how!
Decide on the kind of sim that you want to fly
There are a lot of different flight simulations out there. There are some that tackle a specific aircraft type (such as gliding or combat) and there are others that offer a wide range of potential experiences. Do you want a military simulator set in the modern day? Or a World War II simulator? Or do you want to master General Aviation flying in a Cessna? Maybe you want to fly an airliner across the Atlantic. All of these options are available to you depending on the flight sim that you want to fly.
Make sure you have the hardware to get started
Although flight simulation is a hardware demanding hobby, you don’t need to spend a lot of money beyond a decent “gaming” PC to get you started. The specs that run the latest sims change all the time but building a decent PC that has reasonably high end performance from four key areas:
- CPU (your processor)
- RAM (your system memory while the sim is in use)
- Storage (to save all of those high quality visuals)
- GPU (the graphics card)
Balance these features together to make sure you have a good system as a foundation. You’ll also want to consider some flight control hardware. The exact nature of this will depend on the sim and your needs. A keyboard and mouse is all that’s needed in some simulators while a yoke or a joystick would be recommended hardware for others.
Unless your studying for your PPL, and some of you might very well be doing that, the goal with flight sims is to have fun. Because they have a long lead-in time to get to the fun part I try and tell people to enjoy the funny things that happen along the way.
Whatever you do, make sure you get some enjoyment out of the process as you jump into a new flight sim. There will be challenges, stumbles, and times where it can be frustrating but to cut through that focus on having a little fun along the way.
Embrace the learning process
The first thing that I think is essential is the need to embrace the learning process. If you’re coming to this as a hobby with the intention of having some fun on your PC (or Xbox in some cases) then you may be used to other games as entertainment. Most games are easy to play and difficult to master while flight sims are difficult to play and difficult to master as well. But you can overcome these challenges by breaking things down into small pieces and learning new pieces of knowledge a day at a time.
There is so much to know that you’ll never stop learning. You’ll never stop reading tutorials or watching a guide on YouTube. That’s part of the fun where there’s always something new to do, something new to train on, and some new challenge just over the horizon. Embrace it and you’ll find the barriers fall and soon you’ll be mastering all of the different things you’ll need to know to fly.
Need help buying some content? Why not check out my buyers guides for IL-2, DCS World and more. Updated guides are posted periodically.
Having the right hardware package can make all of the difference. Frustration can be turned into joy with the right setup for your space and budget. Check out some of the reviews that I’ve written to help you make a more informed decision.
Where can I learn more?
Flight Simulation Association
A community of flight simulators, pilots and developers, the Flight Simulation Association hosts regular webinars and helpful guides to get you started with the world of flight simulation.
- Recommended Guides
- Simulator Setup: Basic – Get started with the basics of flight simming
- Simulator Setup: Advanced – Learn more advanced features
- Hardware – Read about how you can setup your flight sim with useful hardware
- Combat Flight Sims – Your guide to combat flight sims
- Helicopter Simulation – A great guide to helicopter sims
And if you want to learn even more, check out their Webinar section to get in-depth with the creators behind these sims.
Air Combat Tutorial Library
Requiem’s Air Combat Tutorial Library is a IL-2 Sturmovik and DCS World focused YouTube archive of instructional videos. It covers the basics from the basics of flight (how to land and takeoff) as well as more advanced features like air combat tactics and techniques, how to fly formation with a wingman as a tactical pair, and much more.
The archive also features in-depth piloting techniques for specific aircraft ranging from a Spitfire and Bf109 to an F-5 and a F/A-18 Hornet. More videos are being added all the time.
Chuck and Chuck’s Guides are an essential resource for virtual flight simmers. His guides are lengthy, in-depth, and extremely readable for both veteran and newbie alike. Visual diagrams are complimented by extensive procedure listings. No matter if you’re a visual learner or prefer to read through the procedures, there’s a Chuck Guide segment that can help you get started or refresh your memory.
Chuck’s bread and butter is his extensive DCS World guides, however, he has also produced guides for IL-2, P3D, and X-Plane.