X-Plane is one of the most advanced flight simulator software packages for personal computers and includes complete scenery of the planets Earth and Mars. X-Plane creates a realistic flight model by computing the forces that act upon each part of the aircraft. This includes turbulence, ground effect, and downdraft simulations. Even the weather is realistically simulated using weather data downloaded in specified intervals.
The terrain is modeled according to the data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, and the environment is animated using road traffic simulations. X-Plane 9 includes more than 25,000 airports. Efficiency improvements have reduced memory usage and increased loading speeds. Additional aircraft models have been added, and the tool to build your own airplanes has been enhanced.
The software is available for around $40 and comes on eight DVDs, which includes all required data.
A free and open source alternative to X-Plane is FlightGear, which has been under development for ten years and has come a long way. It is a highly realistic flight simulator for use on ordinary PCs. It has been developed on Linux but is also available for most other common platforms. The wide range of aircrafts and terrain, and the realistic simulations of the aircraft behavior and the environment, including the sun, moon and earth make it both fun and instructional.
FlightGear's simulation engine and 3D graphics rendering are so advanced that the system is used for all kinds of projects, such as a system for analyzing oscillation problems in jets, or as a visualization tool for unmanned aerial vehicles. A FlightGear based simulation was used as part the TV show Justice to provide illustrations in a plane crash investigation.
JSBSim implements a flight dynamics model (FDM), which is used to simulate the physical forces that move aircraft, rockets, and other flight objects. Such forces include any control mechanisms applied to the object as well as natural phenomena. The software allows you to configure the flight control system, the aerodynamics, the propulsion, and landing gear arrangement using XML based configuration files. It can simulate rotational earth effects, such as coriolis and centrifugal forces. Data can be output the screen, files, or sockets.
OpenEaagles is a general simulation system that can be combined with a flight dynamics modeling system like JSBSim to form a realistic flight simulator.
- If you want to practice some instrument flight, IFT may be what you are looking for. IFT stands for "Instrument Flight Trainer" and features VOR and NDB stations and displays. VOR and NDB are ground-based navigation aids, where VOR is an abbreviation of Very high frequency Omnidirectional Range, and NDB is short for Non-directional Radio Beacon. For more information see here. Download here.