With my Stage 2 check scheduled for the following day I decided to start up Microsoft Flight Simulator X (FSX) and practice a few of the skills I knew I would be required to demonstrate. It’s been a while since I’ve used FSX for practice, so I was curious what I could do (in FSX) with all my new IFR skills.
I got out my low altitude enroute chart and several IAPs for Stockton, Tracy and Livermore and strapped on my kneeboard. I set the weather to foggy and departed Livermore eastbound towards Stockton, practicing several Holds and DME Arcs, all with great success and accuracy, along the way.
Once I was satisfied with my holding and arcing abilities, I flew several NDB and VOR approaches into Stockton, before turning westward for the ILS into Livermore.
During my simulated flight, two things amazed me. First was that all of the navaids in FSX used the correct frequency. That is to say, when I set the NAV radio to the actual ILS frequency for Livermore (as listed on the IAP), FSX responded correctly and I could hear the identifier for I-LVK when NAV1 was selected on the on-screen audio panel. It’s not that I thought it wouldn’t be correct, but I was just sort of amazed that I could use all the real Charts and IAPs and have FSX respond correctly. I may have said this before, but I’ve never been a big fan of flight sims simply because I’ve found them to be unrealistic for VFR flying. However, now that I can use it to practice IFR procedures my opinion has changed, and I find that FSX is indeed a very useful tool.
The second thing that suprized me was just how much I’ve learned in the past few months. When I bought FSX a few months ago, I really had no IFR or instrument approach experience, but today I am tuning radios and turning, or in this case clicking, OBSs like a pro. As I mentioned I had the weather set to foggy, and I was amazed to see the rabits (strobes of the approach lighting system) appear ahead through the virtual fog as I approached DA. Regardless of whether or not this was real, I was able to navigate between several airports just by instruments when just months ago I had no clue how to do any of this. Pretty cool if you ask me!