Learning to fly, but I aint got wings


Ok, I have a few more questions on learning how to fly.

  1. If you have been paying attention (if not, it’s ok), I won’t be able to take courses for my PPL for at least a year due to finances. My question is I play MS flight sim 2004 alot, with all the realism settings turned up (such as no unlimited fuel, no automixture, Enable crashes from aircraft stress, etc. Can I use this as a tool, or would it do more harm than good?

  2. I heard somewhere (can’t remember what rule or regulation) that small planes aren’t able to travel across the ocean. I know it’s impossible due to the amount of fuel needed, but is it actually a law, and if so, what distance over water constitutes as too far (Say I wanna fly from PA to Ireland in a Mooney Bravo and I’m willing to stop for fuel a million times in canada, greenland, and iceland and blow thousands of dollars in rental charges… this is a rhetorical question.)

  3. I’m assuming PPL means flying VFR unless I got an instrument rating. What are the limits on how I can use my instruments? OK to use gps or auto pilot but be ready to take control in the event of a cloud? and I’m assuming no ILS.
    And what happens if I take off in VFR conditions and the sky unexpectedly turns from blue to black? 121.5? Pretend I know IFR? Hail mary?

  4. If I’m the only pilot on board, can a passenger sit in the copilot seat as long as they touch nothing?

  5. I’ve been looking for a site that explains traffic patterns. I understand left and right traffic, but I don’t understand why sometimes it’s right and sometimes it’s left. Anybody have a good site that explains the why’s and not just the how’s?

  6. (Assuming an untowered airport) If you are lined up with the runway to land, do you still have to cirle the airport (downwind thru final) if there’s no traffic? Or can you just declare final?

I apologize for the amount of questions in one post, but I was hoping to keep it kinda tidy by having 1 post instead of many. Feel free to email me if you wish pedoublenizzle@gmail.com. Thanks in advance to anyone who can help me.


Hey Josh,

Welcome to the few, the proud. Answer to your questions are as follows:

  1. You will get answers all over the page on flight sims. In my opinion, while helpful in the looks of the instrument panel, nothing like the real thing baby. You can’t feel the response of a plane on a sim, such as steep turns, under the hood sensations and the like, so while you will get a visual tastes (more like an appetizer), you may learn some bad habits on a sim. Savor it in a real deal plane.

  2. If you re under a flight plan, no restriction on how far off the coast line you can fly. Key operative word is flight plan. Since I have no intention of flying overseas, not sure about the rest of your questions off the top of my head, but the answer is in the FAR / AIMS.

  3. PPL = Private Pilot License and has nothing to do with VFR or IFR. VFR and IFR are “flight rules”. No limits on how you use your instruments. In your PPL course, you will be tought to do a 180 degree turn back when you encounter IMC conditions. A good flight briefing will reduce this situation immensly. Hail Mary’s won’t hurt as VFR flight into IMC can and will kill without the proper training.

  4. Anybody can sit in the right seat, and even can be given control of the plane. I do this all the time in level flight with non pilot passengers. NEVER on takeoff or landings.

  5. Check out aopa.org/asf/publications/sa08.pdf for traffic patterns at uncontrolled airports. By default, pattern are left hand turns unless otherwise dictated by the airport.

  6. Even if I am by myself arriving at an uncontrolled airport, I follow the pattern entry to a tee for a couple of reasons. First and foremost is safety, in that I get a “look see” at the airport, look at the windsock to determine wind direction. This has save my skin time after time, because at my airport, deer are a major problem and SEVERAL times I have had to do a low pass over the runway to scare the beasts off the runway. Propellers and deer don’t mix unless you want to save yourself a trip to the meat processor, and even then, the results won’t be pretty. 2nd reason is that there is always a possibility that an airplane not using radios is in the pattern and a non standard entry in the pattern just may make for a bad day. Entering the pattern properly will give that plan without radios more oppurtunities to spot you. Yes, you can make a straight in approach, but reasons stated above, I do not do so.

Hope this helps.



Small aircraft are ferried across the oceans all the time. They really don’t need a lot of stops, either. From the east coast of the USA and western Europe, only one or two stops are usually required. A couple of popular stopping points are eastern Canada (Gander and Goose Bay) and Iceland (Reykjavik).

Ferry tanks can also be installed into aircraft to increase the range. This is especially needed when ferrying aircraft across the Pacific.


I’ll bite.

  1. [help to use flight sim?] Sure, it could help to use Flight Sim. At the very least it helps you understand the concepts of mixture and flight planning and the concept that in order to land, you have to pull up at the end (this baffles some newbies). Don’t expect to sit in the airplane for the first time and be able to even taxi in a straight line, it takes practice, but it certainly couldn’t hurt.

  2. [forbidden to fl over the ocean?] I know of no such rule. There are obviously many bureaucratic hoops to go through with paperwork and all, but I dont think it is forbidden.

  3. [PPL versus using intruments] During the course of your traiing you will learn to use all of the instruments in your aircraft. You may use any GPS/Autopilot/doo-hicky that is installed, as long as you stay in Visual Meteorlogical Conditions (VMC). You will learn exactly what those minimums are for the different classes of airspace during your training (you’re not paying me enough to go through it all here, but you can look it up 91.155)
    You will be required during your training to have a minimum of 3 hours of simulated instrument conditions. This is most often done using some type of hood/glasses or other “View Limiting Device.” You will be taught how to use your instruments, and your instruments only, to keep the airplane upright and basic navigation. This by no means will enable you to fly into intrument conditions intentionally, but should enable you to keep the airplane flying until you can find some way to exit those conditions. (most instructors teach the 180 degree turn to go back out the way you came in)

  4. [pax in right seat] SURE! This is one of the best perks of being a pilot, taking other newbies up for their first flight! Mom, Dad, siblings, and lets not forget GIRLFRIENDS! If they don’t barf, you’re golden.

  5. [right versus left pattern?]The standard pattern is Left Traffic. Right traffic is used when there is some reason you dont want left traffic! To keep traffic over the water, away from neighborhoods, away from mountains, away from anything really. Observe:
    Shown are the RIGHT patterns for 26 at VAY and 1 at N14. Runways 8 and 19 have standard left traffic. This keeps both patterns on the East side of N14 and on the North side of VAY. If 1 and 26 were left pattern, you can see where the conflict would occur over Fostertown Rd. (having two airports so close [and a third only 3 miles away] still results in the occasional verbal bashing when someone’s on long final for 26 at VAY and another is in the pattern at N14. Or when people don’t follow the correct pattern and end up on the left base for 26 directly over Flying W.)

  6. [can you land straight-in?] Sure you can, assuming no other traffic.(can you be SURE at an uncontrolled field there isn’t an airplane in the pattern not making calls or without a radio at all?) It is legal, sure, and people do it all the time, but I would always tell my students to do the complete pattern, at least until they have more experience.

[Edit: In the time it took me to answer, and make my little map-thingy, others had already responded, so I apologize for being redundant, and also for stretching the forum width with my image.]


The responses already given are quite inclusive, so I will only give a few brief comments.

On Flight Sims. I think like many pilots who started flight lessons as soon as age permitted, like myself, started well before that on the flight sims. Flight sims, if used realistically as a teaching tool, can really give a good foundation on the basics before ever stepping in a real airplane. The primary thing when using flight sims is to recognize that they do have limitations. Trying to fly performance maneuvers on a flight sim may not be the best idea because you cannot “feel” the airplane - and you don’t want to become proficient at doing a manever incorrectly. With that in mind, I am a college student, and when I’m in school I don’t have much time to fly for real. But, I do some flight sim flying to keep proficient (flying is very much a mental activity, so even running through the checklists on a simualted 737 can benefit a Cessna 172 pilot like myself). And by doing this, I am able to step right back in the airplane without having lost much in proficiency. (OK - so much for being a brief comment)

On another note, I have a technical question. While we all let our passengers have the controls in flight, this is technically a no-no unless you are an instructor, isn’t that correct?


Oh, and as far as traffic patterns go - they are traditionally left handed, but sometimes due to obstructions or noise considerations, they are right handed. If I am not mistaken, when Meigs Field was still around, runway 36 was a right hand pattern, as a left hand pattern would put you too close or into a building depending on the type of aircraft.


My 2 on the sim thing. If you start out on a sim, you will teach yourself a lot of bad habits. There are little things you don’t know about, like when and how to enrich or lean the fuel mixture, turn on carburetor heat, etc. that would be taught during actual flight training. So when it comes time for your flight training, you will always forget about those important little things, and you will spend some additional time learning all of those nit-picky little things that you were never taught to begin with.

For a pilot who has spent a few hours “behind the wheel”, it can be a great learning aid for instrument navigation, learning/practicing visual and instrument approaches. You can see what it would be like to fly into certain airports from different directions with the surrounding terrain.

There was an article in Flying magazine about a year ago, written by a pilot who’d never used MS Flight Sim, and tried it before his recurrent instrument proficiency review. After he got things all setup, he found the instrument approaches to be very challenging. When it came time to fly the approaches for real, he found them to be surprisingly easy and the check pilot remarked about how well he was flying!


Although this discussion on flight simulators is quickly becoming exhausted, I think it really comes down to the following. A great majority of flying (and perhaps even the most important part of flying) is about decision making and using good judgement. When used realistically, a flight simulator is just another tool that can be used to help a pilot, whether it is to learn something new or to maintain proficiency. Pilots use all sorts of tools. Pilots obtain weather reports, use hand held GPSs for navigation, and use radios to communicate. But, pilots learn to recognize the limitations of these tools. Pilots know that weather reports may not always reflect actual conditions. Pilots learn light gun signals in the event of a radio failure. And, only a foolish pilot would fly with a hand held GPS without a backup form of navigation should those batteries decide to quit. Using a flight simulator is no different. As long as the user recognizes the strengths and limitations of the product, it can be used as a highly effective tool.