I am no longer actively flying but looking back on my training I credit my few hundred hours of flying sailplanes for making me a better pilot. In addition I would spend a few hours a week on my computer either practicing meneuvers or rehearsing an upcoming flight using the Microsoft flight simulator. I am convinced that both of these made me a better pilot.

My sailplanes were real stick and rudder planes. The long wingspan created a lot of adverse yaw when the rudder was applied so you had to use the rudder pedals for what they were intended. I spent almost all of the time in sailplanes circling in thermals. Since thermals are rarely perfectly round I was constantly adjusting the turn rate feeling the lift and trying to center it. I once had an instructor during a biennial ask me if I flew gliders. I said yes and asked why. He replied that it was because I knew what the rudder was for and used it in turns. I laughed and said that he was right and that when flying gliders I almost never was in straight flight.

I had a period of time where I only flew a little between biennials but I spent a lot of time on my computer flying the simulator. I had rudder pedals and a joystick so it was a fairly decent simulation. When I took my biennial flight the instructor was puzzled as he studied my logbook. I asked him if anything was wrong and he replied that I flew the check ride as if I had many more hours than logged. He got a slight smile on his face, looked at me and then said, "You have flight simulator on your computer at home don't you?" I laughed and said yes. The simulator is no substitute for actual flying but when setup properly and with imagination it can be a really good supplement to actual flying.

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Both great points, thanks Bob. Are you still using Flight Simulator? 

I am not at the moment because I don't have an adequate PC to run it.  I have however been active in developing additional scenery for the sim.  Our team has made it freely available at http://www.fs-freeflow.com/  as freeware. 


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