Can you Justify $6k spent on flight sims?
Yes. Totally. Flying is freedom. The astronomical cost of General Aviation (GA) flying is prohibitive to say the least. The BEST In Real Life (IRL) alternative is Sport Aviation – sometimes known as recreational aviation, also termed experimental aviation. But even they are very very costly. There is also the risk factor. Apparently statistically, GA light plane flying is the same risk as being a motorcycle rider. And GA is much safer than Sport Aviation. So you are left with expensive and risky Sport Aviation. Dont get me wrong as soon as I can afford it Ima be a Sport Aviator. Hopefully when that day comes I will not be so frail that I cant pass a basic medical. lol. But in the mean time what altrernatives are there? Flight sims. One more thing: I like old school fighter planes. They are the peak of human genius for flight of their eras. Whether it be World War One (WW1) or World War Two (WW2), these planes you can be sure, were THE BEST planes that man-kind could create at those times. They represent classic excellence. Compare them to light planes of today that one might fly if one started up IRL flying. Realistically, IRL flying would be done in planes weighing less than 700kg and having around 150 Horse Power (HP) and costing around $400 per hour to run. Contrast this with Warbirds, which had HUGE Horse Power WW1 around 180HP and WW2 we are talking 1000 to 2000HP! Even WW1 planes from 105 years ago had more punch than light planes of today.
How come you spent $6000 on video games? Well from the perspective of an aspiring aviator, who appreciates the disparity in performance between old school Warbirds and present day light planes, and seeing the costs involved in IRL flying, a choice can be rationalised either way. Theres no right or wrong answer bla bla bla, but what would you rather: Spend your $6000 and be up in the clouds duking it out in a warbird, or spend your $6000 and divide it into $400 per hour and the result is what 15 hours in the air. Such an expenditure for such a fleeting experience. Also if you want to build your own plane, even the basic 50HP two-stroke Rotax 503 aircraft engine (New) will set you back around $15000. If you want 80-100HP Four-Stroke proper engines like the Rotax 912 pay $50,000. If you want a GA engine like a Lycoming or a Continental then fork out $100,000-Plus. Just for the new engine. Is the cost picture starting to come into focus now? And for all that Brew-Haa-Haa you get not one tenth the power of a Rolls Royce Merlin or a Daimler-Benz DB605.
The graphics these days are photo-realistic and breathtaking. Further, I used to look at the Warbirds in my aircraft of WW2 books and so on and I would long to fly these planes, but I rationally knew they were long gone and Id never ever get the chance – the thought glimpsed was as quickly dismissed. Close as one can get IRL is visiting air museums and air shows and there sometimes one can even see the interior of the plane, how spacious was the cockpit? what did the instrument panel look like, wow 8 .303 machine guns! But its not like you could just find a Junkers Ju88 and go climbing around in the crew compartment admiring the World viewed through the unique angular glazed cockpit, or crawl back to the tail gunner’s seat in a B25 Mitchell. But you can in flight sims. Every nook and cranny is increasingly being modeled in high detail. If you want to fly in 1940 – 2019 is the year to do it. Even some planes I never expected to fly are available right now, such as the Bristol Blenheim, Petlyakov Pe-2 and Heinkel He111 and in the near future even more, such as the Dewoitine D.500, Hawker Tempest and Vickers Wellington. What are these planes? Even if you were a multi-millionaire you would be hard-pressed to be able to source and fly one of these planes. Sometimes it is impossible. In fact, these planes are so rare and so expensive, that even a wreck pulled out of the jungles of Siam or the peat bogs of the Pripet Marshes would fetch a million dollars in it’s recovered condition.
What do you need to get started and does it really cost that much? You need a PC – a “Rig” and it needs to be beefy. Theres no point trying to run a flight sim on a regular PC. Believe me Ive been there in my bad old days, but its no fun at all hoping to get even 20 frames per second (FPS) on moderate graphics settings. What you need is 60 to 200 FPS at the highest possible graphics settings. Rig performance is crucial. And thats partly why it costs what it costs. When I started back up with flight sims a few years back, I made a big mistake, I went and bought a brand new laptop after some research that seemed good enough. It had a NVIDIA GPU, a MX940. I thought that would do it. Turns out the prefix letters are extremely important. GTX yes, RTX yes, MX NO!!! That was an expensive mistake, the game ran, but not excitingly. I then ordered a Alienware Aurora from Dell and optioned it up until it was even more powerful than some base model Alienware Area 51’s!. I started off with 32GB RAM, an I7-6700 CPU and a NVIDIA GTX1080. And it was a great success and I never looked back! Since then I have further upgraded my Rig to replace the GTX1080 with two GTX1080Ti GPU’s. It was not entirely necessaryto upgrade, but I had come to respect the quality of the NVIDIA product and wanted more, so technically my Rig spend is probably higher than $6 K at this point. Actually if you want to get started you can get the rig I initially got three years ago, today its much cheaper, probably (Im guestimating) $2k for the Aurora and say another $1000 for games, flight controls – ie joystick and accessories such as Track IR. Even less costs if you go pre-owned, but then no warantee etc.
TLDR: Want to fly WW1 and WW2 Warbirds, get a good rig and a combat sim and you’re all set for the best of fun times.