It’s been a while now since PMDG released its beautiful 777, and doubtless many of you have been making passenger flights all over the flight sim globe. One of the most advanced flight sim aircraft we’ve ever seen with even the most obscure details accurately modelled, it’s a far cry from where we started back in the days of the basic Flight Simulator 1.0. My personal flight sim voyage began with Flight Unlimited II in the late 90s, and that was a strong general aviation suite rather than for commercial airline flights. No need for complex FMCs and accurate auto-thrust features there.

Airliner Evolution

Likewise, airline flights have also evolved in a relatively short time. The first aeroplane airliners can be traced back to 1914. In a Benoist ‘Safety First’ flying boat, one passenger at a time would travel 21 miles (34km) across Tampa Bay, Florida, back before it was spanned by bridges. It only lasted four months as despite having carried 1205 passengers the line was not profitable (The regular passenger fee was $5, roughly two days wages for the average factory worker).

It wasn’t until after World War I that the next attempt of note came along, again in Florida. Aeromarine Airways flew passengers between Key West and Havana, and later to New York, Cleveland and Detroit. 10,000 people flew in four years before the airline was forced out of business by a fatal accident.

This was before the days of complex computer systems and autopilot units. This was flying by the seat of your pants, where navigation was by beacon (when they could be seen) and dead-reckoning such as following distinctive features like rivers or rail tracks. Many aircraft soon had the nickname ‘flaming coffin’ as they had a tendency to catch fire after a crash.

Some Things Never Change

Airliner Clipping Trees

We may have more complex systems now, and no one is going to die in flight sim, but there is a key detail that remains the same no matter what we fly; namely being a conscientious pilot! If your navigation system failed, would you be able to get your 777 down from 37,000 feet to a runway safely? Could you fly the aircraft through a complex STAR by hand? These are great challenges to get the most out of your aircraft and to improve your own skills to become a better pilot. And the best thing of all is that it’s great fun; there’s little I find more rewarding than landing an aircraft of any size on the numbers after a challenging hand-flown approach.

You don’t need to read through hundreds of pages of manuals either (though that makes great reading for aviation geeks like us); here at Angle of Attack you can hone your true airmanship skills with the free Aviator 90 video course. Feel like sticking to the stunning 777? There’s a video training program for that, too. You’ll learn all the basics, and then how to confidently fly the old girl even when systems fail. All of these are designed not to churn out another standard sim 777 pilot, but to help you become true Aviators, just like the pioneers of days gone by.

Don’t Forget Why You Fell in Love with Aviation

When we all fell passionately in love with aviation, in most cases it wasn’t because of the on-board computers. It was about the flying, about humans taming the skies themselves. As we approach a century since that first airliner in Tampa Bay, and more than 30 years after the first flight simulator, the dream lives on and the core piloting skills remain essentially the same.

What about you? What flight sim or real world aviation development have you appreciated the most over the years? Leave a comment below and let us know!

This article was posted in Basics, Blog, PMDG 777, Real World


Andrew James

Passionate about writing, music and aviation, Andrew got into flight sim with Flight Unlimited II and hasn't looked back since. He mostly flies general aviation and water birds like the RC-3 SeaBee around Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. Virtually, of course...

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