So, what is an "ATC simulation network"? Basically, it is a plug-in software for popular flight simulators (X-plane, Flight Simulator 9/X) that gives you access to a virtual network of air traffic controllers who provide ATC services during your simulated flight.
Some people may be familiar with VATSIM, which tries to do something similar with uneven success. Think of PilotEdge as a dramatically more advanced version---a "shrink-wrapped" product vs an open-source (volunteer) effort. So, what are some of the advantages of PilotEdge?
- 15/7 guaranteed ATC presence
- Real controllers (PilotEdge has real---off-duty, retired, etc.---or equally well trained controllers directing traffic just as they would in the "real world") working off of realistic "radar" screens.
- Limited geographic coverage. This may sound like a negative, but it is in fact a plus. By limiting geographic coverage, it effectively concentrates the simulated traffic, making it a more realistic training environment. It also ensures effective ATC coverage as well.
Keith started off the presentation with a question: "What's the difference between a IFR student pilot and an ATP?" His answer was "the ATP's experience in navigating the system." This strikes true. Very few newly minted instrument pilots have a lot of experience flying "in the system." This means that they don't know how to translate what they are hearing over the radio into a clear mental picture of what is going on in the airspace around them---basically low situational awareness. They are not hearing, the radio chatter. The only way to gain that ability is through experience. And PilotEdge seeks to do just that by plugging pilots flying simulators into a realistic "virtual" ATC environment that has professional controllers directing virtual traffic in real time.
Perhaps some people saw their demo at Precision Flight Controls at the AOPA summit. But seeing (or actually hearing) is believing. I can see how this would have been incredibly beneficial during my IFR training, and how it can be useful in keeping at least one aspect of IFR flying sharp (situational awareness) through sim flying.
Very interesting presentation indeed.
A few samples: