The ground-training book contains neither colorful diagrams nor humor, but all the information required to pass the FAA written test is there with good illustrations that aid in the learning process. In addition to textual information and diagrams, hangar66.net includes short videos that explain the concepts, sample questions from the FAA test and quizzes to help the student keep track of his or her progress.
The third layer of the system is the new Flying Professor Courseware, which is integrated with Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X software. Once the FPC is incorporated into the program, all the lessons required to pass the flight portion of the FAA’s private pilot and instrument practical exams can be found in the Mission section of Flight Simulator. A virtual instructor introduces each lesson by telling the student what is included in the lesson and what ground lesson should have been studied prior to the flight. Instructions are also given throughout the lesson with guidelines for what the student should experience during the flight.
I tried out the FPC for the instrument rating and, though the Microsoft Flight Simulator is considered a game and not a true simulator (you can’t log any of the time spent “flying” it), I definitely felt that it was a valuable training tool. The lessons are very realistic and the flight control inputs are similar to other flight training devices I’ve flown. Best of all, you can practice at home at your own convenience.
The FPC is currently available only for the instrument rating, but the private pilot program is expected to be available in June. You can buy the Flying Professor Courseware for $150 and download it from the Internet if you already own a computer, Microsoft Flight Simulator X and the recommended flight control hardware. If you don’t, the software and hardware, including a laptop, rudder pedals and yoke, can be purchased from American Flyers for $1,295.
Students can also get unlimited access to FPC for $395 at the eight AF locations around the country and several planned AFX (American Flyers Extension) sites. To date, there is one AFX location at Chicagoland Executive Airport north of Chicago, but Harrington says there are about 100 potentially viable locations around the country. The AFX locations will be simulator campuses only, so the flight portion of the training would need to be completed at a local flight school.
American Flyers’ aircraft fleet consists of 75 airplanes. The Cessna 172 is the airplane of choice for the private and instrument training, the Cessna 172RG acts as the complex trainer for commercial ratings, and the Cessna 310 provides multiengine training at the Addison, Texas, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, locations. All the airplanes in the fleet have round-gauge panels.