Home-Based Flight Simulators and Games

The flight simulator market offers a range of products to help you stay proficient without shelling out the big bucks.

Redbird's TD Flight Simulator
Redbird's TD Flight Simulator
Redbird's TD Flight Simulator

****There are a number of different products on the market that can help pilots of all skill levels refine and maintain their skills. Here are a few of the best options out there.

Redbird TD
If your goal is to maintain instrument proficiency, you can legally do so at home with Redbird's TD desktop simulator, which qualifies as a "basic aviation training device" (BATD) per the FAA and allows you to log your flight time. You can choose to fly with analog instruments or the Garmin G1000 PFD and MFD. The cost is $6,995 or $7,995 for the more complex TD2, which includes propeller and gear levers. The purchase price may not look like a bargain, but long term this sophisticated system can save you money.

American Flyer's School in a Box Educational System
If you prefer to keep your flight simulator separate from your home computer, American Flyers offers a complete system, School in a Box. This portable system includes a laptop computer preloaded with Microsoft Flight Simulator X, a yoke, a throttle quadrant and rudder pedals. This system works great as a proficiency tool, but it was developed for pilots working on their Private or Instrument certificates. Access to American Flyers' online test prep and several other training tools are included, and the total cost for the system is $1,295.

X-Plane Software
X-Plane's flight software includes more than 30 subsonic and supersonic aircraft types, including gliders, airplanes, helicopters and even the space shuttle, and 1,400 additional types can be downloaded. You can also design and test-fly your own airplane. Your instrument skills can be challenged using several types of avionics, and the software allows for weather changes and systems malfunctions as well. The cost for X-Plane 10 is $69.99.

Sporty's Saitek Flight Simulator
While you can't log the time you spend flying the Saitek flight simulator available from Sporty's, playing around with this flight game equipment will help you with your scan and some of the muscle memory of flying. And at $289.98, the cost of this combination is likely to fit your budget. The system includes a yoke, throttle quadrant, rudder pedals and Microsoft's Flight Simulator X, but you'll need a home computer to operate the system.