Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004
|A Beechcraft King Air 350, one of my favorite airplanes.
I remember playing with Microsoft Flight Simulator years ago, back when the rendering software generated a crude cartoonish screen display. In the old program, the default location was Meigs Field in Chicago, and many times I watched the windshield crack as I crashed into the Sears Tower shortly after takeoff. Nowadays, I use Flight Simulator 2004, which is a vastly more powerful and sophisticated program. The rendering software generates amazingly realistic views, and the program includes numerous advanced features like autopilots, instrument landing systems, flight planning and air traffic control, realistic clouds and weather, a full worldwide database of airports and navaids, and a very useful help system including computerized flight training.
- Computer - Dell 8400 with 3.2 GHz hyperthreading Pentium, 1 gigabyte of RAM, 160 gigabytes of disk. I'm very pleased with this system.
- Monitor - Samsung 213T 21.3" flat-panel LCD display. This is a terrific display, great for Flight Simulator and also for viewing and processing digital pictures, which I do frequently.
- Video card - ATI Radeon X300. This is a relatively low-cost upgrade from the basic built-in video circuitry.
- Sound card - none. I use the basic built-in audio capability of the Dell 8400, but I added extra speakers including a small subwoofer.
- Joystick - Logitech Attack 3. This turned out to be a mediocre joystick. It's too sensitive and twitchy for precise control of the airplanes, but I don't feel like spending more money right now for a better joystick.
My Favorite Airplanes
- Piper Cub - As far as airplanes go, the Cub is about as simple as possible, so it's easy and fun to fly (although landings are a little tricky since it's a taildragger). This is my favorite airplane when I'm just moseying around the local area. I fly low and slow and enjoy the great view out the window.
- Beechcraft King Air 350 - This is a fast and powerful airplane, with all the bells and whistles, but it's still relatively easy to fly. I fly this airplane on regional trips, most of the time on autopilot.
- Boeing 737-400 - The more I practice with the 737, the more I enjoy it. It's more difficult to fly and less forgiving than the King Air, but by using the autopilot and autothrottle carefully, I have had many successful long-distance flights. At the destination, it's especially enjoyable to have the autopilot fly an ILS approach, since it's very smooth and stable, unlike a hand-flown approach using the twitchy and overly sensitive joystick.
- Mooney Bravo - This was the first relatively high-performance airplane that I learned to fly. I used to fly the Mooney often, but not so much lately—now I fly the King Air, and who can blame me for moving up to a King Air!
- Douglas DC-3 - This airplane is easy and fun to fly, although it's a royal pain to taxi on the ground (you have to steer using differential brakes and throttle). I especially enjoy cranking up the sound volume during the takeoff run and listening to the throaty roar of the big radial engines.
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