The problems with flight simulators is that you forget to fly. The other evening I was flying a short trip from Sywell to Wellesbourne for the CiX VFR Club’s 15th Birthday Fly In, and having just re-joined the group I was keen to take part.
Unfortunately my computer had been playing up. Half my USB ports didn’t want to recognise any of my equipment so I was flying with a joystick rather than my favoured Yoke, pedals and throttle setup. Added to this I was struggling to connect to Plan G. Basically things were not going well.
So, convinced that my PC needed an upgrade I set off with a heading in mind and make use of the sim’s GPS. All was going well. I was chatting to the lads on Teamspeak and they could identify my position. I was on-track. Approaching Daventry I began to notice a drop in the engine power. I was losing height and had already descended 1000 feet. It didn’t enter my mind to think it could be a problem with anything but the simulator.
Sharing my concerns on Teamspeak we were all struggling to to come up with a reason. Then someone mentioned Carb Ice. Could it be as easy as that? A quick look to the lower panel of my Carenado C172N and I located the Carb Heater switch and flicked it on. Almost immediately my revs started to pick up and I was able to regain my altitude.
Now, in real life I would have gone through regular ‘en-route’ checks which includes switching the Carb Heat on every 10 minutes or so. But no, it didn’t enter my mind that the simulator wouldn’t replicate this problem because it was just that; a simulator.
Feeling rather foolish I was able to make a textbook approach, lesson learned. This level of realism isn’t for everyone but for me it is important and shows both current pilots, those who are, or wish to start, training, that a desktop flight simulator can be a useful tool on which to practice procedures.
CAA Safety Sense Leaflet: 14. Piston Engine Icing