As computers get more powerful and cheaper, and as human beings advance their knowledge and experience further, we are fast approaching a point where fantasy and reality are fused into one big blur of sensory exhilaration. Some time in the last decade, we crossed the point where Flight Simulators became so realistic that time spent flying in a simulator started being counted as actual flying hours. And new technologies such as Oculus Rift VR are only making the future more exciting. The best part is that a real(istic) flight simulation experience is now well within the reach of the common enthusiast.
Getting off the Ground
For PC or Laptop owners, there are already several high quality, open domain Flight Simulation software available that are backed by worldwide communities of enthusiastic users and contributors. Coupled with easily available off the shelf controllers and accessories, they are enough to transform your desk and armchair into a virtual cockpit. For the latest news, reviews and discussions, check out resources such as SimHQ and NewsFlightSim.
Doing It Yourself
If you want something more immersive, and have access to a bedroom, you can draw inspiration from this French gentleman and build your own simulator at home. There are plenty of DIY resources available to guide you, such as X-Sim (also check out the work of SirNoName), DIY Flight Sims and ARC Air. For those willing to splurge, there are high-end solution providers such as SIM Room.
The Complete Flying Experience
The full fledged flight simulation is experience is much closer than you think. The Emirates Aviation Experience will let you fly an Airbus A380 in an instructor-led 30-minute session for about £50, in UK or the Dubai Mall. You can even fly a Boeing 737 in shopping malls around the world, such as in Bangalore or Mumbai (Flight4Fantasy) or in Budapest or Győr (PremiAir). And if you are really serious about flying, you can get professional lessons in a full fledged flight simulator at Swiss Aviation’s training center in Zurich for the price of a high-end laptop.
With Virtual Reality making a comeback, keep an eye out for interesting Oculus Rift enabled Flight Simulators. Or take the next leap into Space Flight. And while we are on the topic, why not eliminate the aircraft altogether and jump right in to the experience of flying like a bird?