Let’s face it, no matter how wise you are in getting the best product for the money, flight simulation isn’t cheap. Like anything else in life, the key to arriving at your desired end state is a methodical progression. If you’ve found your way to this site, it’s likely that you have an immediate training need, or at least a very strong interest in flight simulation. In either case, you’re probably wondering where to begin if you don’t have the cash to shell out on an entire setup. Here’s how we recommend you proceed, which is to say, here’s how we’d do it if we were starting all over again:
- Purchase a solid computer and entry level joystick. Even though there are low-fidelity flight simulation software packages out there that will run on equally low-end machines, the time will eventually come when you’re ready to upgrade. Take our advice: don’t settle when it comes to the computer. No matter what level machine you purchase, it’s easily the most expensive part of the setup, and if you low-ball yourself initially, you’ll only find yourself having to spend the money all over again and then some to acquire a machine capable of running the
setup you envisioned.
- Grab an office chair and desk and get started flying on free or cheap software such as YSFlight, an entry-level version of Microsoft Flight Simulator, or Lock On: Modern Air Combat. You’ll build skill sets and relationships in online flight sim communities that will help shape your vision of how you want to pursue the hobby before investing a great deal of time and money.
- If you find that’s its something you really enjoy, displays are next. Why? Because no amount of peripherals will make the experience enjoyable without first maximizing your primary sensory input: your vision.
- Upgrade your flight control hardware. Invest in a higher fidelity joystick and throttle if you low-balled initially, and add a set of rudder pedals.
- Add head tracking if not already using VR. TrackIR will not only increase the level of immersion (and therefore effectiveness), it will improve your capabilities as a pilot by allowing you to use your head and hands as you would in a real aircraft. Whether your goal is training for your real-world pilot’s license, flying for a virtual airline, learning formation flying, or dog fighting with your buddies, TrackIR is a relatively cheap, must-have upgrade.
- Complete your setup with cockpit geometry. You’ve got all the pieces in place. Once you add a well designed seat with the flight controls and displays properly positioned, you’ll have the ultimate flight simulation experience in your living room.