Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Flight Sims

Screenshot from IL-2 Sturmovik
I've always been a fan of flight simulators, particularly the combat variety. One of my favorites is IL-2 Sturmovik, the original and its many variants. (Cliffs of Dover is one of the later variants, covers the Battle of Britain. More on that someday, for now let's just say that the guys who developed this series dropped the ball on this one.)

Now I don't rush right out and buy every flight sim as soon as it comes out. There are a number I wish I'd bought at the time. Such as F-16 Falcon. I did get to play around with this one day. One of my wife's brother-in-laws had a copy. I discovered that one cannot just jump into the cockpit (a real one or a simulated one) and enjoy it. Ya need to do some familiarization first.

That's another way of saying that F-16 Falcon and I didn't get along all that well. Of course, when one is used to simulated propeller aircraft and then climbs into a simulated jet, I imagine it's similar to what happens in real life. Let's just say that I was "behind" the aircraft all the way. Kept running into things that were not healthy for my simulated steed. Control inputs would occur long after they should have been made.

One of the first flight sims I ever purchased was actually brought home from the store before I actually bought a computer. It was 
Chuck Yeager's Advanced Flight Trainer from Electronic Arts. (Warning, shameless plug: EA is one of the best software companies on the planet. I'm not just saying that because the Naviguesser works there and he gets me lots of cool free/inexpensive games. They truly produce a fine product.)

Of course, buying software before buying a computer is rather akin to buying a paddle before one buys a canoe. (Not sure why I picked that example, perhaps it's my inner Canadian trying to get out, eh?) But I knew that I was going to buy a computer and back then you pretty much had two choices: IBM PC or a Mac. (This was in the 90's.) Not being independently wealthy, it would be an IBM PC for me. Also back then there was only one operating system. So as long as I bought software designed for the PC, I was golden.

So about a month after buying the software, I bought a computer. Paddle, meet canoe. Canoe, paddle. Eh.

I was hooked. Now this flight "trainer" was very primitive. Wire frame models and geometric shapes for terrain. But it felt like I was behind the controls of an aircraft. That was the key thing. I could "fly" without actually getting a pilot's license. Which leads me to the next part of the story.

Now at one time I wrote a post (here) which referenced the fervent desire of my youth to be a fighter pilot, a jagdflieger, a 
pilote de chasse. But such was not to be due to my very weak eyesight.

Okay, but I can still get my pilot's license. So I figured that one day, when I was more settled and had a steady job, I would get that ticket to dance the skies on laughter-silvered wings and top the windswept heights. (See High Flight for the rest of that most lovely poem!)

So Korea, 1978. I am a newlywed, I have just arrived at my latest posting and planned on staying there for a long time (turned out to be almost four years, which is a long time in the military). I have reached the lofty rank of Staff Sergeant (E-5 in the USAF) and the base has a flying club. Things look prime to go out and get that pilot's license. (Insert screeching halt noises here...)

Seems that my newly acquired spousal unit and the love of my life thinks that flying is dangerous. No husband of hers will be allowed behind the controls of a flying machine. Not now, not ever.

I was young, I was in love. I was somewhat nonplussed at the "no flying for you" rule which had just been introduced into our new household but I figured that someday the Missus would lift her ban on my dream of flight.

This has not happened yet. We have been married for 35 years (this month) and there has been no easing of the Missus's ban on allowing me to learn to fly. So flight sims, they're all I've got.

For now.

I did, at one point in time, point out to the Missus, "Hey, our youngest daughter gets to fly in the back seat of the Super Hornet! All I want to do is learn how to fly a little, propeller driven airplane. Why can't I? Huh? Please...." (If that sounds suspiciously like whining, it was. Not proud of it but there it is.)

Her answer, "Our daughter is now a grown woman. She has made her career choice. I don't like it but I have no control over her anymore. She is, after all, a Naval Officer and an adult. YOU on the other hand are my husband. YOU I control. YOU will do as YOU are told."

Being a good lad, I knuckled my forehead, said "Yes, Ma'am. Your every wish is my command" and got on with my life. (And I only grumbled a wee bit. Mind you, it was once the Missus was well out of hearing.)

Ah, well. I'm content with my lot in life. Flight sims are far cheaper than the alternative. But still, there are days when I look to the sky and get all wistful.

Then again, things could be worse, eh?


  1. You, my friend, need to learn how to husband nag. That is a skill not unlike a child asking over and over and over for this or that, just more refined and a teeny little more mature. If you really want to take flying lessons, that should be the only thing you want every single birthday, anniversary, Christmas, etc. Look sad when you let her know how much you want it, and that your life isn't complete until you have slipped the surly bonds of earth. Lemme know how it works out!

    1. Oh, I can do husband nag and have used it (judiciously mind you) in the past with great effect. At the current point in time though, the finances / time / will are not there to take flying lessons.

      But the WSO tells me if I move to California then Big Time will teach me to fly. For a vastly reduced rate. Not only is he a Rhino instructor pilot, seems he has his commercial instructor's ticket as well. But of course that would require me moving to California. Not quite ready to do that yet. (I believe Big Time's major at Western Mich was Aviation Flight Science. The kid is a SERIOUS aviator.)

      In reality, flying was a dream of my younger days. Not sure if I really want it that bad anymore. (Only on some days when an aircraft flies overhead and the day feels bright and shiny do I still really want it.)

  2. Sometime back in the early '90s I bought a flight sim... the name of which I cannot recall... and I SERIOUSLY sucked at it, so much so that I gave it up. Period, full-stop. I had enough frustration in real life and didn't need any more, thankyaverymuch. Which is also why I refuse to knock a little white ball with several and sundry sticks all over a lovely park.

    1. I'm "not bad" with propeller-driven flying machines. Jets and I seem to have an issue. Still. (I am ALWAYS behind the power curve.)

      I also hear you on the "little white ball" sport. Some time ago the Missus suggested we take up golf. Because it looked like "fun". My answer was, and I quote, "Sorry honey. I have enough sports that I suck at. I am NOT adding another."

      Surprisingly, she bought that argument. Though she still mumbles about ballroom dancing at times. She says "that's not a sport."


  3. Hmmmm, I wanted to be a pilot too. Bad grades in high school and joined the Army with only an associates. Decided to go SF on the first enlistment and I got close - SF signal support in a SF unit. Was looking at re-enlistment and doing rotary-wing when my class date for Training Group (SF training) came through. Didn't hesitate.

    Years later, I considered rotary-wing again but an old SF bud of mine had gone that down that road 'til he found a fork that let him bail. He was unimpressed with the folks he had to call coworkers and warned me off. All of which is a long walk to a small house within which I say, I never did the pilot thing.

    I'm a fan of sims too, but prefer the ones that let you fly "rubber airplanes". As a crew chief I knew called it, "Kick the tires and light the fires. Let's get in the air!" The ones where you actually have to train, learn checklists, and are generally very realistic are too much work. Aces of the Pacific, Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe, Battle of Britain, and other classics of the 90s I remember fondly. Ones that I flew a lot and had a lot of fun with.

    Fortunately, when my bride met me I was already doing stuff that was much more dangerous than flying. Soooo, when I'm ready to start that endeavor, I'll have her support. Time and money have so far conspired against me.

    Dust is a pilot and he gets down to Fitchburg from time to time. Or, next time you're up here, check with him about a ride.

    I'm like you about flying now, not sure how badly I really want it.

    Jumping on the other hand, I really miss that. That is much cheaper and still pulls at me regularly.

    There are things that my wife does not want me to do.

    Think about that, even with all the crazy stuff I've already done, there are things that are streng verboten in her book if they include me.

    I think she cares. :D


    1. Dust is a Vermonter? This I did not know.

      You actually MISS jumping out of perfectly good airplanes? *snark=off*

      I can understand your Missus keeping an eye on you. After a life in SF, I'm sure she feels you've tempted the fates enough.

      Aces of the Pacific and Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe were two of my personal favorites. The 90's produced a number of truly great games. (M-1 Tank Platoon springs to mind. Tanks and airplanes. It's always been about tanks and airplanes.)

  4. I see you have a good grasp of the chain-of-command...life is much more peaceful when that is understood ..& obeyed!

    1. Yes, I am trainable. Just barely. My chain of command was pointed out to me by my oldest daughter, with "Dad, you're not IN the chain of command. You're at the BOTTOM of the chain of command." So, as always I trot out the Man's Prayer:
      I'm a man,
      but I can change,
      if I have to,
      I guess.

  5. I've never had experience with flying simulators but some of my 9 year old grandsons video games have a mode that is (I imagine) something like a simulator. I totally, completely suck at it. He literally flies rings around me and then shoots me down.

    1. I shudder at the thought of taking on my grandchildren at such things. Their hand-eye coordination already terrifies me!


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