The first question on the minds of most is, "Why a flight simulator ?"
A flight simulator finds application in Flight Training, Aerospace Engineering Universities, and Aerospace Product Development & Research.
Professor Dave Allerton, University of Sheffield, UK : "Why does an Engineering Department need a flight simulator? The answer is, for the education of undergraduate and postgraduate students, the design engineers of the future"
This is the sector that needs flight simulators the most, but hardly has any. However, leading aerospace engineering universities in the world have a simulator for the purposes of exposing students to basic flying and aircraft instrumentation, in addition to (in certain cases) supporting research and development on the simulator.
An aerospace engineering student is the design engineer of tomorrow. Unless he has flying knowledge / experience, his designs can never be optimal. After all, every system on an airplane is designed keeping in mind the end user : the pilot.
The difference between a mere aerospace engineer and an effective aerospace engineer delivering optimal solutions is the mindset : To think like a pilot. And that is possible, with the lowest investment ever : with an effective flight simulator.
Excerpt from an interview of Mr. Fernando Alonso, head of Airbus' Flight and Integration Test Centre, "There are two test pilots and one or two test engineers on every (test) flight. The engineer is in charge and tells the pilots what to do. But he can only do that if he's a pilot himself and knows exactly what he's asking."
Some of the most successful avionics companies in the world have a key ingredient : the inclusion of a seasoned pilot in product design. Sometimes, having a single pilot to review designs is good. But mostly, having engineers who think like a pilot give rise to designs and solutions that are more in tune with what a pilot or a client may need : saving time by eliminating reviews of impractical designs or solutions.
The only way to get this mindset in engineers and managers involved with aerospace designs and solutions is to transform them to an "engineering pilot" : an engineer that thinks like a pilot, with deeper system level understanding than a pilot. This potent combination can unleash better designs and win client confidence. And the only way to achieve this : is through an appropriate flight simulator.
Advanced aircraft today, be it single engine trainers with glass cockpits or modern day airliners with advanced, complex systems, all take significantly more time for flight crew to familiarize themselves with the airplane and its systems.
Simulator allow pilots to familiarize themselves with these systems, in the safety and the low cost environment of a flight simulator. This accelerates pilot training, in enhances proficiency levels.
Simulators may be used for CRM and counselling, Flight Safety Department : Incident Analysis, Flight Schools, Ground Schools, and in type rating training organisations.
Flight Simulators, while used in most departments, are hardly tapped in ground school, where the student's grasp of concept is much faster with a demonstration of the subject on an appropriate simulator.
The cost of acquisition, support facilities, airstrip, clearances and approvals, regular maintenance, the high cost of fuel, insurance, risks, dependency on weather, and more...all make a real airplane, for the purposes of training, a very expensive proposition.
A simulator on the other hand, occupies lesser space than the airplane, and has virtually no running costs. It doesn't need anything that a real airplane requires, involves no risks, yet simulates flight to a very good level, and comes at a very small fraction of the real airplane's acquisition cost alone!.