Category Archives: Flight simulation

BAK study progress – direction positive, but more study needed

So, finally snatched enough time this week to work through the second Dyson-Holland BAK (Basic Aeronautical Knowledge) sample exam I bought a few years ago.

The good news is, this time I passed! Pass mark of just over 80% (against the minimum 70% required), which is a definite improvement on my initial fail when I did the first sample exam nearly a month ago. Going back over the Air Law chapter definitely helped, along with having the relevant Civil Aviation orders and regulations, and the AIP (Aeronautical Information Publication) on hand to reference during the sample exam (as allowed by the exam rules).

What I’m finding challenging still, are the questions relating to using take-off, landing and load charts for the “Piper Quebec” used in the sample BAK exam workbook. When I did these exams a few years ago I chose to do these questions for the “Cessna Papa”, for which (for some reason) I found the questions rather easier. But the take-off and landing charts for Piper Quebec are just a little more complex. Fortunately, worked answers are also included so I’ll go back over them with a fine tooth comb.

I’ll then do the 3rd sample BAK exam, and assuming a good outcome (better than 80% pass mark, and not struggling with take-off and landing charts) I’ll finish up on the BAK revision and tackle the PPL modules next. Goal is to have done a complete refresh of all this material by end February next year, and to be nailing the sample Bob Tait PPL exams I’ve just bought.

The theory is still pretty easy, the problem I’m having is simply one more child in my life, and a much more demanding job and schedule in general, than when I first took a run at this 3 years ago …

In defense of flight simulation – fun and informative

Back in 1994 or thereabouts, someone gave me my first copy of Microsoft Flight Simulator. It’s difficult to overstate just how important an influence flight simulation has been on my ambition to learn to fly for real.

How many thousands of aviation enthusiasts would have shared my first experience of installing MS Flight Simulator, firing it up and taking that first computer flight in a Cessna Skylane from Chicago’s Meigs Field and experiencing the thrill of flight from within their own home?

I haven’t done any computer flying for several years now, but for a long time, this was my main means of satisfying my urge to fly. A decent (or not so decent) computer, a copy of the software and a computer joystick is for most people a much cheaper alternative to the real thing. I often wonder what proportion of the flight sim community would actually – given time and funds – choose to fly in the real world, versus those who would still prefer the simulated alternative? Huge virtual flying communities now exist, driven and enabled by the Internet boom over the last 15 years. Not only do these communities allow people from all over the world to fly virtually, they even let them direct air traffic virtually. There’s some serious investment of time and money behind all this.

At first, I used Flight Simulator to just buzz around and look out the window at the (virtual) scenery. But I quickly grew tired of that. There’s only so much vicarious pleasure to be had by looking at grainy, poorly rendered graphics of scenery on a 13″ computer screen. (Not that the graphics didn’t improve – spectacularly – over the years as both software and hardware capabilities improved, but in the end it’s still just looking at computer renditions.) I then started to explore the “flying lessons” that Flight Simulator offered.

And there’s where I started to learn some stuff. Flight Simulator offered a series of “private pilot license” tutorials that featured guided lessons – straight and level flight, turns, climbing, descent etc – that, once passed, awarded you a virtual PPL certificate. This was way cool. Real aviation concepts were introduced in a fun, accessible, hands-on way.

From that “hands on” perspective there is, of course, very little comparison between the virtual and the real thing (unless you’re flying in commercial or military grade flight simulators or on the most advanced home set-ups). Furthermore, many people will tell you that flight simming can actually teach you bad habits which, if not “unlearned” when you fly for real, can be downright dangerous. But as a theory learning tool, flight simming is extremely effective.

Using Flight Simulator I first learned about the primary flight instruments. I learned about the basic flight controls, and about fundamental concepts such as angle of attack. And the fun and engaging virtual environment in which I learned these things definitely piqued my interest and made me want to experience the real thing.

Once I had my virtual PPL I then had a crack at the instrument flying lessons that Flight Simulator offered, but I found them very difficult to complete. If you exceeded certain altitude tolerances, for example, when attempting to fly straight and level solely on instruments, the lesson would “fail” you and end automatically. It was just too hard for me to control the virtual aircraft well, using the light touch and discreet use of control inputs that real flight calls for, with the relatively clunky Flight Simulator software and a moderately priced computer joystick.

(I’m sure there are many flight simmers out there who have successfully passed these virtual flight sim hurdles where I failed. As far as I’m concerned, hats off to them, but I found it too difficult to sustain my interest in persisting with the instrument lessons.)

Notwithstanding my failure on virtual instruments, I played around with Flight Simulator for many years, buying several upgrades of the software and enjoying the new features as they rolled out, stopping only when the time demands of starting a family made it difficult for me to find time in front of the computer. Now, this is more than compensated for by the prospect of flying for real next year!

Around the time I started flight simming, a colleague of mine at the time ridiculed MS Flight Simulator as an “old man’s game”. Now, as then, I beg to disagree. If you love flying, flight simulation is an exciting, educational and endlessly engaging pastime, whether you’re doing it virtually or for real.