I know that flight simulators (which are used to train the pilots for commercial airlines) try to simulate almost all kind of weather conditions, but how effectively and realistically are they able to reproduce turbulence in the simulated environment?

  • $\begingroup$ What kind of flight simulators? There are many. No PC or FMC simulator I am aware of simulate turbulence and the only full size simulator I've flown, a 737NG, didn't either. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Jun 11, 2015 at 13:30
  • $\begingroup$ Specifically used by airlines to train the pilots for commercial operations.. $\endgroup$
    – NitinG
    Jun 11, 2015 at 13:47
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    $\begingroup$ Many weather phenomenons are not really well known, especially winds. It would be difficult to recreate them digitally (the very dangerous microburst existence has been unknown till recently). This can be compared to rogue waves which accounts from mariners have been challenged until recently. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Jun 11, 2015 at 18:26

2 Answers 2


No, simulators cannot realistically simulate turbulence. Turbulence is characterized by significant changes in altitude that happen very quickly, and even full motion simulators aren't going to be able to re-create that. They can bump you around a bit, but not really prepare you for the real thing.

  • $\begingroup$ Why can't they prepare you for the real thing? $\endgroup$
    – Koyovis
    Apr 26, 2017 at 3:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Koyovis, real turbulence involves accelerations beyond the capabilities of the simulator's motion controls. For example, a bad bump might produce negative g forces throwing you towards the ceiling -- you can only get that in a simulator by pulling it down faster than gravity, which requires extremely long, fast-acting actuators. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Feb 7, 2020 at 1:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Mark Electric motion systems can reproduce up to -0.87 g in heave. The resulting specific force of 1 - 0.87 = 0.13g is indeed not negative, but is a pretty serious acceleration, definitely a more memorable experience than just being bumped around a bit. That latter statement is correct for older type hydraulic systems - helicopter simulators would often feature a seat shaker or cabin shaker, which shakes you around quire perceptively, I can tell you. $\endgroup$
    – Koyovis
    Feb 7, 2020 at 2:47

It depends what you consider realistic. A full motion simulator can slam you around pretty fearsomely, but there is always the limited travel of the motion actuators to consider of course. As opposed to the real world where the amplitude is infinite.

Simulators can realistically simulate turbulence, as in a vibrating aircraft. Modern Level D simulators on electrical motion systems can reproduce vibrations between 0 - 20 Hz at a teeth rattling amplitude. They can also produce downward accelerations at over 1g, making the occupants being ejected upwards from their seats. This can be used to simulate high altitude wind shear effects, while making the altimeters tumble.

Motion systems can bump you around a lot. I'm not sure what the training value of slammin a flight crew through full turbulence would be though - would they pick up any extra skills that could prevent an accident?

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    $\begingroup$ There's a study done by an RAF pilot who flies approaches in a sim, with and without motion. The approaches with motion are much more accurate: motion stimulates the acceleration sensors in our head,and the direct sensing is much faster that the info from our peripheral vision. $\endgroup$
    – Koyovis
    May 9, 2017 at 21:51

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