A far cry from the familiar skies of home flight sims, the ultrahigh-tech world of flight simulator training used by the military and civilian airline companies is something that all home flight simulator fans will love to hear about. And it just might make them jealous in the process.
Flight simulator training predates by several decades the first computers. In fact, the first flight simulator training systems were completely mechanical. The Link Trainer was the first widely successful attempt; it didn't have any of the things that we now associated with flight simulation. Rather, it only provided prospective pilots with an experience of the physical movement of flight. Later editions of the Link Trainer did include some of the flight instruments then in use. During WWII, American bombing crews trained on the massive Celestial Navigation Trainer, which stood 45 feet in the air and held an entire crew for night bombing practice runs.
Of course, from those simple beginnings, flight simulator training has greatly progressed. Now, mechanical simulation is married with computer simulation, and the result is high-tech modules such as the so-called “full-flight” simulators. These simulator allow trainees to experience the feeling of a plane's motion on all three axes, as well as submerging them in a highly detailed graphical world. The benefits of such a system should be clear: pilots can get close to real world experience without risking their lives or the lives of military or civilian passengers. The costs of such flight simulator training modules can be staggering, which is why many are shared by multiple different parties.
Of course, these sort of of flight simulator training programs are not available to you and me, unless we join the military or are sent there by a civilian company. All the same, knowing that the world's best pilots were instructed using flight simulator training not dissimilar to the ones we play at home sure does make kicking back with a USB yoke seem much more appealing.