During the winter of 2012 I started playing with the freeware simulator, FlightGear. The early flights were so silly! My flights improved with the Saitek equipment, but I still craved flight simulator software that was complete right out of the box. This is when I learned about X-Plane. The aircraft provided with the stock instal were a great improvement. Terrible crashes were fewer and I started making very simple cross country trips.
A year ago I decided to stop making excuses for not trying the real thing, after all I seemed to be flying just fine in X-Plane. Long story short, it was a lot of work, expense and a few teachable moments. It has been helpful to reenact certain key parts of my training flights in X-Plane. All my real cross country flights are rehearsed to identify pitfalls of the trip. Emergency procedures also are practiced. You can’t really practice an emergency landing in real life and take it below minimum altitudes, let alone to the ground. As my landings go in X-Plane, so go my landings in life. Aside from the physicality of flying the airplane around the pattern, bumps, shakes and unpredictable effects of the wild blue yonder, the experience is very similar. X-Plane has proven to be invaluable in developing my timing, spatial judgement, multitasking, communications and navigation skills.
I am a private pilot now. I credit my great instructor and X-Plane for my success.