Posts Tagged ‘simulated airsickness’

The Wild Blue Virtually

February 2, 2009

Sometimes it’s who you are.  Sometimes it’s who you know.  Sometimes it’s who you… well, anyway…

In my case, it was the middle one.

As mentioned in last post, I occasionally enjoy multiple a beer with my usual crowd of fellow drunkards friends who enjoy a rare libation.  At one such recent soiree, a guest* was in attendance who happened to have business connections with the local Air National Guard.  When he heard that I was a pilot, he asked if I’d be interested in a little time in the local Guard’s flight simulator for the F-16.  Resisting the urge to kiss the man (I barely know him), I agreed wholeheartedly, though expecting it was one of those many drunken promises that would soon be forgotten.

But, remember and deliver he did.  This past week I had the privilege to spend an hour at the controls in a real F-16 cockpit flying through a virtual world.

It.  Was.  Awesome.

I was ushered into the simulator by the sim tech** and given a brief overview of what to expect.

The door closed behind me and, a few switch clicks later, my surroundings lit up as if I was actually in the aircraft on the airport runway.

Applying throttle, I rolled down the runway and was soon airborne…without crashing yet!  Yay!  I had to learn the sensitivity of the aircraft, just as you do with any new plane you fly.  Learning to keep the nose fairly straight to the runway I just departed, I was finally able to start looking around my virtual world.  Okay, not the highest resolution, but I could recognize roads and airports.

Now, flying the planes I usually do (gerbil powered with a speedometer measured in furlongs per fortnight), it takes about 15 minutes to get to our great fair city’s international airport*** from the simulated airport I just departed.

Flying the sim?  I was there and past it in a few minutes.  Barely enough time to recognize it for what it was… and that wasn’t at full speed.

Then I started seeing if I could actually fly this sucker.

Now, there are some simulators that have full motion, meaning it will bounce you around and turn as you turn.  Not so this one.  Six screens surrounded me with virtual pictures scrolling past.  Since it was not a full motion simulator, I thought there’d be no feeling of motion when I started doing turns.  Uh-uh… the thing was being over-feisty to my control inputs, the screen matching my control commands.  Very soon I felt my simulated airsickness growing to reality.  But, I was able to keep my composure and, as I learned to not over-control the aircraft, found I could turn and loop without ill effects.

With the simulator, you can simulate permanently full tanks, so I played by turning on the afterburner…basically putting the aircraft’s engine into turbo overdrive.  And watched in amazement as the fuel use gauge raced quickly up to a put-your-SUV-to-shame guzzling 24 000 pounds of jet-A fuel per hour.  To put it into context of the planes I fly?  The plane I usually fly has fuel tanks that would go from full to bone dry in about a minute and 15 seconds at that same fuel rate.****

One of things I soon found I enjoyed doing was rolling inverted and flying upside down over an airport.  Looking ‘up’ (down) to watch it slide by my virtual canopy was a thing of beauty to me.

No, I didn’t get the chance to shoot anything down… boo.

Finally worked myself up to chancing a landing and surprised the sim tech by actually landing a simulated F-16 on my first attempt (with his guidance on how best to do so)!  Then I proceeded to satisfy the sim tech’s expectation by ‘crashing’ the next 5 times on landing attempts.  Nailing (i.e., not crashing) one more landing, I decided to call it quits, having worked myself into adrenaline exhaustion.

I left the simulator with a renewed awe of the pilots who fly the real F-16.  Bless them all.

And, on leaving, I was very surprised to find that an hour had slid by in what seemed only a short 10 minutes.

And, yet, ready for more…

virtual pilot in a virtual world
virtual pilot in a virtual world


*We welcome guests to our weekly galas.  Though, after seeing our debauchery, few rarely wish to return.

**No, the technician is not simulated.  He’s real.  And a whiz at running the virtual controls.

*** Said a bit tongue-in-cheek.  One flight every 10 days or so to and from our beloved Canadia to the nort’ makes this officially an “international” airport.

****Good thing my little prop plane has no afterburner… for lots of reasons.