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Flight sims offer very realistic simulations of how a particular aircraft feels, claimed by pilot interviews on youtube.

But how do sims get their data?

First, does all this data even exist, i mean companies have data on how the aircraft changes control for example, due to some wind turbulance, or the slight turn of the steering?

Second, how do companies get this data? Particularly for fighters.

Third, how do they manage to offer such a realistic experience? Are they in direct communication with the aircraft companies / goverments? Isn't data like this confidential?

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    $\begingroup$ Re your third subquestion: Is it realistic? Has anyone trustworthy vouched for that? $\endgroup$ Mar 6 at 3:23
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    $\begingroup$ Are you talking about home desktop simulators or professional simulators used to train pilots? $\endgroup$ Mar 6 at 5:53
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    $\begingroup$ Related to professional simulation and before the sim can be used for training, authorities have strict regulations. They use the so called QTG's in order to certify a sim. ‘Qualification test guide (QTG)’ means a document designed to demonstrate that the performance and handling qualities of an FSTD are within prescribed limits with those of the aircraft, class of aeroplane or type of helicopter and that all applicable requirements have been met. The QTG includes both the data of the aircraft, class of aeroplane or type of helicopter and FSTD data used to support the validation. $\endgroup$
    – O'Terror
    Mar 6 at 12:16
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    $\begingroup$ See the link for more info: easa.europa.eu/certification-specifications/… $\endgroup$
    – O'Terror
    Mar 6 at 12:24
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It comes from a few places and it depends on the type of simulator you are talking about, while the data is not necessarily "confidential" I would call it proprietary although much of it is actually out there:

The Public Domain: Home simulators like X-Plane offer the ability to build your own aircraft models and there are many readily available for sale. People may build these planes experimentally or based on the associated POH information. In many cases the airfoil information for light singles like the Cessna 172 is fairly readily available since its based on a specific NACA airfoil.

The aircraft companies: Since a great deal of training occurs in D-Level simulators these days (because its cheaper than burning Jet-A) the aircraft manufacturers may also build simulators for the real aircraft they build in this case they have the engineering data on hand to build the models.


A great deal of the "experience" also has to do with things that have nothing to do with the aircraft flight model. Things like weather simulation, graphics, airport markings, radio chatter, cockpit sounds, button availability, instrument response and avionics functionality. When I fly my sim its just as important to me that I can simulate the same GPS unit (Garmin 430) that I fly with as is the ability for the 172 to fly like it does in real IFR conditions.

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If you talk about certified FFS or FTD, each plane is made up of two main data sources:

  • The engineering data given by the aicraft manufacturer to the training device manufacturer. This data package contains mainly flight model and system description
  • The avionics data/software given by the company that developed the avionics for that particular plane

These data are confidential because it may contain sensitive data relating to military technologies and require a lot of effort to create and verify: for this reason it is a very expensive product that aicraft manufacturers sell to training device manufacturers. By itself, even JSBSIM or FlightGear or Prepar3d are realistic simulators: flight mechanics equations are "open source", however the difference is in the flight model of the plane.

An additional comment on flight models: they are made of equations and parameters that have been confirmed by the aircraft manufacturer through CFDs, Tunnel data and Flight test data. Further to this, there are a series of objective tests to verify that simulators behaviour matches the actual Flight test data

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