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The flight sim theory

By Builder in Technology
Sat Sep 15, 2001 at 12:17:14 PM EST
Tags: Security (all tags)

When was the last time you played a flight sim game that had a button to turn off the aircraft identity beacon ?

I watched the news this morning on Sky news and once again, disaster strikes and the media goes after computer games as a possible aid to the big bad.

A guy in a nice shirt and tie piloted the plane in what looked like Microsoft flight sim (its been a while) into one of the towers. A little tasteless, given the tragedy of the other day, but then what do we expect from the media? All the while the voice over was explaining that the terrorists could have got all the training they need from a product that sells for as little as GBP30 on the high street.

BULL! Like the intro paragraph says, When was the last time you played a flight sim game that had a button to turn off the aircraft identity beacon ? The aircraft flying over New York and Washington DC were not identifying themselves. This means that the transponder had been disabled. This alone suggests some familiarity with real live aircraft.

I have seen no footage of these plane's in flight, but I have seen the footage of the plane crashing into the tower enough to make me ill. I've seen it from loads of angles and at all sorts of speeds. When you transition from using a joystick and a keyboard, into a real cockpit, things change. Hitting the rudder peddals too hard will flip you about. Course changes have to be precise.

The plane that I saw hit the building flew straight and level, executed a very smooth turn and dive, and hit the side. There was no fly by and miss. There was no wobble or any other suggestion that the pilot was not comfortable with the plane.

I'm sure that there are people out there who can make this transition. Who can risk hijacking several aircraft on the basis of "We'll probably find the aircraft id switch when we get there." But I believe that the flight sim theory is crap. I believe that these people have a couple of flying lessons under their belts at the very least.

I just wish that the media would stop looking at computer games everytime something bad happens in the world!


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The flight sim theory | 48 comments (46 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
The flight sim could be used for landmarks (4.44 / 9) (#1)
by georgeha on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 09:41:05 AM EST

and orientation, to let the terrorists know what their flight path would look like from the cockpit. Certainly no reputable flight school would allow it's students to buzz Manhattan.

The terrorists probably trained on a combination of things, flight sims, Boeing manuals, and actual piloting experience.

Commercial flight sims (4.60 / 5) (#16)
by dennis on Fri Sep 14, 2001 at 04:35:28 PM EST

Certainly no reputable flight school would allow it's students to buzz Manhattan.

Here's an article by a 747 pilot that's relevant. He says commercial flight simulators are available to anyone who wants to pay the hourly charge, and once you're in there nobody can see what you're doing. He said lots of people crash into the simulated WTC for the heck of it, and he's done it himself...though he doesn't suppose he'll do it anymore.

[ Parent ]

Re: Commercial flight sims (3.25 / 4) (#22)
by smaugy on Sat Sep 15, 2001 at 04:16:41 PM EST

Hmmm. Do these commercial flight sim places keep records of all the simulated flights? It might be a good idea to see who exactly has flown into the WTC using them. A bit of a far-fetched idea, but you never know.

[ Parent ]
Who didn't crash into the WTC using MS Flightsim ? (3.87 / 8) (#24)
by daxboeck on Sat Sep 15, 2001 at 05:11:24 PM EST

Hi Folks !

I'm a Fan of Flightsim's especially of military Flightsim's.
And using MS Flightsim crashing into the WTC was one of my first actions when I first bought a release of that software, when I didn't have the time for a proper landing.

Usually, when I choose the NY Scenery to start, I took off, then flew around the Skyline and finally landed on a nearby airport or when I was short of time crashed either into the liberty statue or the WTC and very rarely into the Empire State Building.

And talking with friends of mine, we found out, many of us crashed at least once into the WTC, just for pleasure.

It's been kind of "cool did ya crash the WTC, too ? Wonder when there'll be a version these Towers visibly collapse."

Obviously some Isamistic Freaks thought it was "cool" too.
Though, some NY people most probably don't think so now.

And with the well known "Cowboy" as president, I hope for him to be more calm concerning real actions, since you don't have much of a chance getting someone out of a mountain, if he's willing to defend himself.
I hope your "Cowboy" is not going to have more innocend people killed just by plain stupid revenge, than died in the WTC and Pentagon Attacks.
I hope your "Cowboy" doesn't send hundreds of soldiers into sure death in a cowardly attempt to conquer a extremely well defended mountainous region with extremely experienced defenders.
I hope your "Cowboy" doesn't think he can extinguish anyone in a mountainous region just by bombing it all down, because mountains even protect you of a nuke !

I have an understanding for the hate and grief of all american victims and those who feel with them.

That all doesn't give the USA the right to produce even more enemies, than it already has, just by it's own usually plain stupid and unthought actions.

Just my opinion.

Have a nice day !

[ Parent ]
You bring up some good points.. (2.30 / 10) (#28)
by Zukov on Sat Sep 15, 2001 at 06:53:58 PM EST

But the audience you speak to on K5 is too small. I suggest you visit the USA if you can to speak to Americans directly.

I have found that New Yorkers are very receptive to new ideas along the lines you point out and I am sure they would be very interested in what you have to say.

I think you would get the best reception by visiting the Fire Stations in Manhatten and share your important and insightful views with some of the firemen who work at these stations.

New Yorkers sometimes have strong accents, so be sure to speak loudly and slowly, and it would probably help to repeat some of your more important statements about our "Cowboy" president.

Good luck,

Have a nice day!

ȶ H (^

Yes, I have just bumbled upon Gnome Character Map. Please ! me.
[ Parent ]

Our country, right or wrong... (5.00 / 1) (#46)
by wnight on Wed Sep 26, 2001 at 01:29:02 PM EST

You know, many patriotic US citizens think Bush is a "cowboy", at best.

Many think of him in much less flattering terms. He was a gutless, low-browed idiot who bought an election. How did this suddenly change when terrorists attacked?

These calls to support the president are meaningless at best and rabid jingoism at worst. We need to call for the president to support the people, who he is supposed to represent. It may have been "tough" for him to have to administrate through this crisis, but nowhere near as tough as it was for the victims, their families, and the communities they lived in.

Wishing well to all the victims (directly, and indirectly) doesn't conflict with hoping that Bush doesn't start a nuclear war over this. You can even be violently supportive of the things for which the USA stands, without supporting its leaders, or everything done in its name.

[ Parent ]
Site Familiarization (none / 0) (#41)
by SEWilco on Tue Sep 18, 2001 at 03:48:59 PM EST

I really don't think it was that hard to find those two tall towers by the river. You didn't need to learn much about New York to hit the two things sticking up the farthest.

However, from the description of the flight path of the Washington plane, it seems they were aiming at the White House and couldn't find it.

I'll bet the National Air & Space Museum no longer has the flight simulator which urges you to try flying an airliner down the Mall...(a year ago it was on 2nd floor, in alcove reached from the balcony overlooking the Lunar Excursion Module).

[ Parent ]

Computer games? (3.33 / 3) (#2)
by duxup on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 09:56:30 AM EST

I saw an FBI agent on being interviewed who said that if people were trained on flight sims they weren't the type you'd pick up at you're local software store, and probabbly not run on a standard PC.

CNN has been claiming that they located... (3.00 / 1) (#3)
by Anonymous 6522 on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 10:20:07 AM EST

...two sets of people who where on the planes that crashed into the WTC, got flight training in the US, and have links to bin Laden.

[ Parent ]
So i've heard (3.00 / 1) (#4)
by duxup on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 10:32:30 AM EST

I've heard the same thing. It would make sence. Bin Laden is said to have quite a bit of money at his disposal. I can't think of a reason you wouldn't spend some $ on some flight trainning if you're going to do something big like this.

[ Parent ]
It's not that hard (4.33 / 9) (#6)
by localroger on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 07:02:47 PM EST

The terrorists actually went to the trouble to get training, but it wouldn't have been necessary. I once was part of a tour group which found itself the only passengers on whatever the hell military transport is the equivalent of the civilian Boeing 737. We each got to fly the plane for several minutes, executing maneuvers and reading the instrumentation.

Jetliners are incredibly easy to fly, much easier than a small prop job. Once you're up in the air you basically point it where you want to go, and adjust engine power to get your velocity right. Extra bonus points for knowing how to use the navigation system. The hard part is landing, and the terrorists weren't worried about that particular skill.

I can haz blog!

this happened on a tour? (4.00 / 1) (#21)
by Acous on Sat Sep 15, 2001 at 04:15:00 PM EST

what sort of tours do you go on? how did you end up in the military transport?

[ Parent ]
International Science and Engineering Fair (4.50 / 2) (#33)
by localroger on Sun Sep 16, 2001 at 09:41:42 PM EST

In 1981 I took 3rd place in Physics, with a project on soft errors in computer chips (I nuked my PC's memory with a radioactive source and observed no soft errors, a significant result). The two winners ahead of me studied violin resonance and some X-ray crystallography thing, so I got the first prizes from most of the military judges. 10 of us -- one from each category -- got a 10-day tour of high-tech air force facilities.

Maybe I should post a story about this. We met the secretary of the air force, walked around on the EMP Trestle, watched a hydrogen flouride laser blow a hole in a sheet of titanium (THOSE THINGS ARE LOUD!!!!!), visited the model airplane shop where models were prepped to be shot at by experimental laser weapons, walked around beneath the space shuttle Columbia as she was being prepped for her 3rd mission in space, and got to sit on the padded seats of a brand-new Cray supercomputer. In the midst of this one of our transports was a radar training plane which we had to ourselves; every single seat had a functional radar console. This was the flight where the pilot let us individually fly the plane. It was all quite an experience for a 17-year-old.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

A computer game was NOT involved. (4.50 / 24) (#7)
by EdFox on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 07:29:09 PM EST

As a US domestic airline captain holding an ATP certificate and Flight Instructor ratings, who has not only instructed others to fly but trained in full-motion heavy jet simulators, I can make the following statements with some semblance of authority:

The concept that a computer game was used for training the pilots involved in the horrific events of the 11th is laughably stupid. It is an invention of the popular media, which in many previous instances has proven itself totally ignorant of the most simplistic factual aspects of modern commercial aviation.

Current reports (yes, I realize this information was gleaned from the media) indicate that several pilots trained for long periods at several different flight schools. This is the normal method that any civilian pilot takes. There are indications that the same pilots advanced through their training, first taking primary instruction in light aircraft then advancing to full-motion simulator training at more advanced training schools such as ERAU. So far, reports do not point to any training taking place at the single training and full-motion simulator company that trains the vast bulk of the world's commercial airline pilots, which I will not name. However, it would have been very easy for the terrorists to present themselves as aircrew for a privately held 757 and taken training. This, of course, is speculation, but it is highly educated speculation.

The "identity beacon" you refer to is correctly known as a transponder. It can be easily disabled via a cockpit control switch. Reports indicate that in 3 cases, the transponder was not disturbed and continued to report the aircraft's position and altitude as the hijackers rerouted the planes towards New York and Washington DC. The FDR and CVR recorders, which the hijackers would likely want to disable, are impossible to disturb from the cockpit. And for Pete's sake, they're ORANGE, not black!

As to the degree of pilot skill required to execute these horrific acts, it is quite low. The regular aircrew of each flight performed the preflight preparation and takeoff phases, which are among the most demanding of the entire flight. The hijackers assumed control during cruise, likely disabled the autopilot, and manually steered the aircraft towards their targets. Modern airliners are purposely designed to be very easy to fly. When properly trimmed--a technique these pilots would have been extensively trained on during their assumed training--directing an airliner into the side of a structure the size of the WTC would be extremely easy.

As a member of the proud United States commercial aviation industry, I am outraged by these cowardly acts and demand swift and forceful military retribution against the entire population of the nation-states found to be responsible in any way. Aviation will recover and with our new safeguards, we will do everything possible to foil any future attempts of this sort.

Thank you. God bless America.


black box (3.80 / 5) (#9)
by Refrag on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 08:53:00 PM EST

The black box isn't called a black box because of it's color. It is called a black box because it is a sealed box. There is not need to know what goes on inside of it, because unless you're installing it or analyzing it, there is no reason to touch it.


Kuro5hin: ...and culture, from the trenches
[ Parent ]

AFAIK (3.12 / 8) (#11)
by decoy on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 10:22:13 PM EST

It's called a black box because they used to be black, way back when.

Anyway, I don't see why anyone would call them "black boxes" using your definition.

[ Parent ]

It's an engineering term (4.40 / 5) (#12)
by fluffy grue on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 11:13:55 PM EST

Remember, engineers are the ones who built the black boxes, and "black box" is an engineering term for "a system which operates without any external knowledge of what's going on internally."

Engineering terms tend to spread over to the non-engineers who use them. For example, when was the last time you heard a non-programmer refer to a bug in their software? Pretty recently, I'd imagine.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Thanks (3.00 / 2) (#15)
by Refrag on Fri Sep 14, 2001 at 10:29:57 AM EST

Your definition was a good one. I decided to go with a lay definition rather than looking one up and quoting it, but apparently mine didn't look official enough to some people.


Kuro5hin: ...and culture, from the trenches
[ Parent ]

Um... what ? (4.20 / 5) (#27)
by uXs on Sat Sep 15, 2001 at 06:45:46 PM EST

On the one side, you say:

The concept that a computer game was used for training the pilots involved in the horrific events of the 11th is laughably stupid.

Then, you go on saying, after a lot of stuff about the training normal pilots go through:

As to the degree of pilot skill required to execute these horrific acts, it is quite low

And more:

When properly trimmed--a technique these pilots would have been extensively trained on during their assumed training--directing an airliner into the side of a structure the size of the WTC would be extremely easy.

So, which one is it ? Is it impossible, or very easy ? I can't tell.
Note that i'm not asking about whether they actually learned it from a flightsim, just if it's possible.


What our ancestors would really be thinking, if they were alive today, is: "Why is it so dark in here?" -- (Terry Pratchett, Pyramids)
[ Parent ]

Sorry for the confusion. (none / 0) (#47)
by EdFox on Thu Oct 04, 2001 at 01:37:03 AM EST

Also sorry for the lag time, been busy. :)

Anyway, to reply to your concerns. The answer is: it is both stupid and very easy.

For a trained pilot, the physical task of flying a 767/757 into a target the size of the WTC building, to say nothing of the Pentagon, would be quite easy.

The problem with using a computer flight sim, however, is that the controls are totally different. Even with a control yoke, a computer simply cannot replicate the physical sensations of flying an aircraft. This is why airline training simulators, such as those several of the terrorists used, are full motion. They didn't spend $10 million building the simulator with motion for the gee-whiz factor. They spent it because unless you feel the pitch and roll changes, you can't really simulate the experience of flying.

I have trained in such sims for a total of 120 hours. In a few instances, instructors have had me fly with the motion turned off. The difference is marked and I noticed a strong tendancy to overcontrol. Overcontrolling a swept wing jet at high mach at cruise altitude can have disasterous effects.

Hope this clears it up a bit.

-- EdFox

[ Parent ]
Are you serious? (5.00 / 5) (#32)
by willie on Sun Sep 16, 2001 at 11:16:22 AM EST

I am outraged by these cowardly acts and demand swift and forceful military retribution against the entire population of the nation-states found to be responsible in any way

Is this some kind of irony or sarcasm that I don't understand? Please let it be. Does the entire population need to suffer for the actions of a minority? That method of thinking is what starts wars that just keep on getting bigger. Punish the people who did it or were behind the planning, or even knew about it but did nothing to stop it. But don't go and seek retribution against the entire population of an nation.

What would of happened if the Japanese thought that killing 350k people (which may or may not be justified) deserved retribution against the entire population of the US?

[ Parent ]
They probably knew a lot about flying (3.40 / 5) (#10)
by uweber on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 09:10:24 PM EST

I've seen an interview with a pilot who suggested that the pilot of the second plane that hit the WTC might have some military backround. It seems those slight cours adjustment manouvers that bastard pulled right before impact are typical for fighter pilots.

See that's the problem here. (none / 0) (#43)
by shumacher on Fri Sep 21, 2001 at 08:59:52 AM EST

I'm not sure what's going on, but it seems everything I read or hear on these events contradicts everything else. Other pilots have said in the media that the pilot of the second plane seemed inexperienced because the nose of the plane was allowed to fall in the turn.

When you can balance a tack hammer on your head, you can head off your foes with a balanced attack.
[ Parent ]
Pilots view (3.60 / 5) (#13)
by arheal on Fri Sep 14, 2001 at 02:48:23 AM EST

As a pilot I have to say the the resemblance between flying a real plane and a (pc based) simulator is huge. You could not expect to learn on a simulator and then control a real aircraft immediately.
There can be only one!
Turning off the transponder? (3.00 / 2) (#14)
by rossyb on Fri Sep 14, 2001 at 05:07:56 AM EST

Easy - threaten the pilot/co-pilot until they do, killing people if needed. These are the sort of people who will fly a plain into the WTC, remember.

It'll never work again. (4.00 / 4) (#17)
by seebs on Fri Sep 14, 2001 at 06:09:26 PM EST

The next guy to try to hijack a plane will be torn apart. Now that we know they will, in fact, simply kill all the passengers, along with thousands of other people, the only thing we can reasonably do is stop at *NOTHING* to kill anyone who tries to hijack a plane, no matter what they say about letting us live.

As long as we all remember this, we will find that there is no point in anyone trying to hijack planes; the worst they can do is kill everyone, and we know they'll do that if they successfully gain control of the plane.

Fear people who have nothing left to lose.

[ Parent ]
Ashamed (1.66 / 3) (#26)
by skizot on Sat Sep 15, 2001 at 06:27:42 PM EST

You should be ashamed of yourself if that is your opinion. I guess we can be glad you aren't a pilot. With the knowledege of your own death being certain, and the damage flying into a building would do, can you really say you would just go ahead and do it because of threats?

[ Parent ]
Erm (none / 0) (#29)
by delmoi on Sat Sep 15, 2001 at 07:30:55 PM EST

That guy said that you could coerce the pilot into turning off the transponder, not flying into the wtc.
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
A lot of so called "experts" these days (3.33 / 3) (#18)
by kostya on Sat Sep 15, 2001 at 01:28:42 PM EST

What a moron. I don't know the first thing about flying, but I have a clue about one thing: Microsoft Flight Sim does not prepare you for the real thing by any strech of the imagination.

I'm afraid we have only further idiocy ahead of us. As news channels try to out do one another, they are only going to be able to show us the same footage so many times. So they will start looking for experts. Sigh.

Veritas otium parit. --Terence
Practical uses for MS-FS for pilots... (3.50 / 2) (#37)
by Neros on Tue Sep 18, 2001 at 05:35:56 AM EST

As a pilot, I disagree. I've been sim flying since Flight Simulator 3 and real flying since 1992. While nothing can beat the real thing, there are some practical uses for "off the shelf" flight sims.

1. I can practice instrument approaches at airports that are unaccessible/unavailable at my local airports. It's a bit cheaper too - $39.95 vs. $70+/hr. You don't have to wait for other traffic as well!

2. I can practice a cross-country flight before I actually go. Even with limited graphics, the current batch of flight sims provide enough visual references for basic VFR navigation.

3. What else can a VFR pilot do now? Pilots across the country are still grounded!


[ Parent ]
Are you serious? (4.00 / 5) (#19)
by QuantumG on Sat Sep 15, 2001 at 01:32:41 PM EST

I saw the report on Sky too. I was kind of shocked at the stupidity of it, but I was more suprised at the claim that the "terrorists must have trained for up to a year." The claim being of course that this attack was not a response to something recent (like, say the US siding with Israel once again pulling out of peace talks -- something that, ironically, I read on the news ticker in time square). So please, do tell us, why is it so hard to believe that finding 4 good pilots willing to die for Islam is such a far fetched concept? If I was Islamic I would personally be insulted that it is inconcievable to the western mind that one of my people can fly a plane.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
Trained pilots (3.25 / 4) (#39)
by Mitheral on Tue Sep 18, 2001 at 11:46:21 AM EST

This is exactly right. A bunch of us were sitting around discussing the attack the first night and one of the talking heads came on and started nattering that the pilots must have had years of training in 767 in order to fly the plane. I pointed out that there must be thousands of people around the world with the skills to "fly" the plane; and that they are not even close to all being American. And by "thousands able to fly" I mean fly enough to hit a very tall or wide stationary target. Afterall it is not like they were trying to make a dead stick instrument landing at night.

You know, television really needs a reply button.

[ Parent ]

It HAS happened.. (4.50 / 4) (#20)
by sakusha on Sat Sep 15, 2001 at 02:18:37 PM EST

I recall an incident from a year or two ago in Japan. A middle-aged businessman was a fanatical flight-sim player. His favorite trick was to fly a 747 under a certain bridge, in Osaka Bay I think, the terrain mapping in his flight-sim was first rate. He flew a specific commuter flight mission over and over, planning his mission, to hijack and fly an actual 747. He bought a regular commuter airline ticket and hijacked the plane using a small knife. He slashed the pilot's throat and the copilot tried to render assistance. The hijacker seized controls of the plane and flew it unimpeded for about 90 seconds, he headed straight for the bridge. The copilot attacked the hijacker and recovered control of the aircraft just as the plane was lined up to take a run under the bridge.

Japan hijack cite (4.00 / 2) (#31)
by sakusha on Sat Sep 15, 2001 at 11:17:07 PM EST

I found a web reference to this incident:


[ Parent ]
Not flying, crashing... (3.50 / 4) (#23)
by aralin on Sat Sep 15, 2001 at 04:49:26 PM EST

I'm pretty sure that Microsoft flight simulator will not prepare you by a wide margin for flying a commercial plane, but they didn't intend to "fly" it right? They just wanted to CRASH it. And Microsoft is excelent at preparing you for crashes of ANY kind :)

Some angry humor along these lines, MLPed (4.00 / 2) (#25)
by Robert Hutchinson on Sat Sep 15, 2001 at 05:23:58 PM EST

An MSNBC.com story.

Friday's Penny Arcade regarding said story.

The corresponding commentary.

Robert Hutchinson

No bomb-throwing required.

What about FedEX 705 and it's books. (3.50 / 2) (#30)
by scross on Sat Sep 15, 2001 at 09:23:45 PM EST

I remember a story about FedEX flight 705. A "disgruntaled" FedEX flight engineer tried to hijack a DC10 aircraft after take off and plow it into FedEX headquarters. FedEX 705 was loaded with fuel for a flight from Memphis to San Jose.
The narrative I read recalled how the Captian noticed that the CVR circuit breaker kept getting reset. (Preflight checklists always involved checking the circuit breaker panel.)
A book was written about it. I'd bet that this incident and book has more to do with this weeks horror than any simulator game.
Cheers, Sarah
Oh yea (none / 0) (#38)
by 0xdeadbeef on Tue Sep 18, 2001 at 10:34:41 AM EST

They also made a movie about it, starring Tom Hanks.

'Course they took a lot of creative license in the movie version.

[ Parent ]

FYI....CVR == Cockpit Voice Recorder (none / 0) (#48)
by bmhkim on Tue Oct 09, 2001 at 05:00:07 AM EST

And yeah, the voice recorder switch kept getting thrown (off). As it turns out, the flight crew noticed it was off and turned it back on a few minutes before they were attacked. iirc, the co-pilot was the only remaining flight crew member who was conscious after the attacker was subdued (and then just barely).

[ Parent ]
I know.... (2.00 / 1) (#34)
by Ray Chason on Mon Sep 17, 2001 at 02:37:56 AM EST

Let's ban flight simulator programs!
The War on Terra is not meant to be won.
Delendae sunt RIAA, MPAA et Windoze
Flight sims (4.00 / 2) (#35)
by macpeep on Mon Sep 17, 2001 at 04:10:35 AM EST

"When was the last time you played a flight sim game that had a button to turn off the aircraft identity beacon?"

Fly! does. Fly! 2 does. Microsoft Flight Simulator has had it since waaay back. It's called the "transponder" and its a central part of flying. Everyone who has flown any serious flight simulator on a PC knows how to use a transponder - including how to turn it off. To say "we have been hijacked", there's a special 4 digit code to turn the transponder to by the way, but these planes never used it.

Having said that, I think it's important to point out that when the media talks about flight sims, they don't mean PC flight simulators like Fly! or MS Flight Sim. They are talking about multi million dollar stuff that airlines train their pilots with. These are simulators that are *EXACT* copies of the real planes, down to the last detail.. It's with these that the hijackers had trained. Maybe with PC flight sims too, but that's a totally different thing.

Incidently, my younger brother who is an avid PC flight sim fan was just on an airshow last sunday and got to try out one of these super accurate "real" sims. I asked him how accurate the PC flight sims feel like compared to the real simulators.. My brother said that it felt pretty much exactly the same and that he could control the plane without any help from the airline captain that was in the simulator with him. I guess the PC flight sims really ARE quite accurate, but that's irrelevant to this discussion since the hijackers used "real" sims - not PC ones.

Almost (2.33 / 3) (#36)
by premier on Tue Sep 18, 2001 at 02:21:09 AM EST

You say it is important to point out that when the media talks about flight sims, they dont mean PC flight simulators like MS Flight Simulator.

Well, this featured MSNBC article discusses how they think the terrorists used "a $34.95 computer program". Incidentally, the current of of MS Flight Simulator is $34.95.


[ Parent ]
MS Hijack (1.00 / 1) (#40)
by SEWilco on Tue Sep 18, 2001 at 03:33:34 PM EST

Oh, if only MS machines would report when they've been hijacked...

[ Parent ]
And how exactly did this occur, praytell? (4.00 / 1) (#44)
by Kasreyn on Mon Sep 24, 2001 at 12:05:13 PM EST

"Welcome to SimCo, world's largest company selling multimillion-dollar flight sims to anyone who walks in off the street! How may I help you, sir?"

"Yes, my name is Ali Abubwa al Nutso Fanatic. I would like to buy a state of the art flight sim program from you."

"Will you be paying by certified check or visa, sir?"

"No, I thought I would pay with this briefcase full of unmarked bills."

"That's fine then. Where would you like the sim delivered to, sir?"

Get my point? Reread stories before you post, they ARE talking about software sims for the PC, and they ARE idiots. No software sim (and I've played them too) can prepare you for finding dials and buttons on an instrument panel, like, say, a transponder-->off switch.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Money (none / 0) (#45)
by Shalom on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 08:50:43 PM EST

There was a story about this on the news ... they simply paid the flight training co. a lot of money to let them fly on the sims. Some of the people there were suspicious and very alarmed, and the French investigative service even called them to ask them what the hell they were doing.

A bit of it from this article:

He and Al-Shehhi also underwent flight training in Venice, Fla., Tampa, Fla., and Miami after visiting a flight school in Norman, Okla.
Unmarked bills make the world go round.

[ Parent ]
flying easy, navigation only a little harder (5.00 / 2) (#42)
by garbanzo on Tue Sep 18, 2001 at 06:22:57 PM EST

Worked for a few years at a (to remain nameless) company that trained corporate jet pilots. We had sims. I am not a pilot, but working there made me very familiar with typical commercial flight procedures and aircraft cockpits. The level of complexity between corporate jets and airliners is pretty much equal. To be honest, the latest and greatest bizjets are more complex than 757's or 767's, including things like heads up displays and moving towards infrared overlays.

Like I said, I'm not a pilot. Zero stick time in real aircraft. But I got to drive a couple of sims--a Learjet and a Citation. I took off and flew the Lear just fine (didn't mess with rudder pedals, just the yoke and the trim switches on it). The Citation was even easier to take off and fly--and with the instructor's assistance, I acquired the glideslope and localizer (radio beacons to assist landing) and landed the Citation. Not well enough to be a great pilot, but not a crash.

Jet passenger aircraft are not hard to fly. High altitude flight can be tougher (thin air, high speeds) but flying around at WTC level is not hard, as long as you maintain airspeed and have the airplane basically trimmed.

Flying jets as a qualified pilot--instrument rated, performing safely and up to standards--that is tougher. That's what flight schools are for. To fly well enough to hit very large buildings is simple.

What the sims and PC sims would have been good for, other than Practice, Practice, Practice would be familiarity with navigational settings. The world looks a little different from way up high. Probably, what they would want to do would be to select a navigational aid (e.g. a VOR) that would get them close enough for visual. How hard is that? Not very. You tune a nav radio to the frequency, you set your flight director (a pretty basic instrument that these guys would be familiar with from sims) to select that radio and some target altitude. The flight director "points" the pilot at both with little v-bars. With a little extra work, they could dial both in to the autopilot and let it take them there until they had a visual.

My long and rambling point is this: the transponder is relatively unimportant in the WTC story and the press and many people are very much overstating the difficulty in flying jet aircraft, especially if you don't intend to land.

sure, it's all fun and games--until someone puts an eye out

The flight sim theory | 48 comments (46 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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