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As a retired airline pilot, and having spent a few stimulating simulator hours, I enjoyed Macâ€™s Simulator Yardstick column. I think he sold the simulator short on its ability to recreate sustained acceleration forces, though. The motion of the simulator does not parallel the motion of the actual aircraft in any way. The sole purpose of the motion is to simulate the sensation of acceleration in any direction, not attitude.
It is much better at simulating horizontal acceleration than vertical. But in an airliner, hopefully we donâ€™t have sustained vertical acceleration, because we try not to pull any Gâ€™s. If we were trying to simulate an aerobatic aircraft, that would be a different story. Weâ€™re not doing steep turns in a jet airliner. The simulator can do turbulence and hard touchdowns just fine.
It can sustain the sensation of horizontal acceleration all day. On takeoff, the simulator tips up and pushes you against the seat back, as if accelerating down the runway. Inside the simulator you have no idea what the actual attitude of the simulator is, because your instruments and the view out the window tell you that youâ€™re accelerating straight down the runway. And thatâ€™s exactly what it feels like. Landing with braking and reverse thrust is just the opposite, as the simulator tips forward and throws you against your seat belt and shoulder harness. Turning off the active on the high-speed creates a sideways acceleration, which the simulator accomplishes by tipping right or left. A coordinated, standard turn produces virtually no acceleration forces, so the simulator is in a level attitude.
Mac also mentions missing the â€œseat of the pantsâ€ sensation in the sim. I donâ€™t think that â€œseat of the pantsâ€ flying has much to do with airliners. The front of the aircraft can be doing very different things than the rear is, making your seat very unreliable. In a T-tail airliner, after a slight landing flare, itâ€™s common to push forward on the control column, which actually arrests the descent of the main gear rather than lowering the nose, and gives you a smoother touchdown. Your seat is not much help there.
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