President of the PC Gaming Club Sarah Livingstone flies over Trinidad Head in a simulated flight on Sept. 12. The simulator software is customizable to most airports. | Photo by Michael Weber

PC Gaming Club Installs Flight Simulator

Bing. We are now departing from the Humboldt State University library. Flight attendants, please prepare for take-off.

Bing! Flight attendants, please prepare for take-off

We are now departing from the Humboldt State University library.

Since fall 2018, Humboldt State University’s PC Gaming Club planned, fundraised and constructed a flight simulator for anyone to use. Students, faculty, staff and community members can learn how to fly an airplane by practicing in the simulator on the third floor of the library.

“The amazing thing about simulations is that it’s designed to simulate real life,” Sarah Livingstone, president of the PC Gaming Club, said. “You are still having the same neural connections and the same wavelengths in your brain to replicate that. So then when you do step inside a real airplane, you are doing all the exact same things; you know how to do everything correctly.”

The control wheel or “yoke,” juts out from the instrument panel of the flight simulator. | Photo by Michael Weber

The simulator features all the levers, buttons, instruments, windows and pedals that one would see in a real-life cockpit. Library pilots can choose their airplane model, airport location, flight conditions and other variables within the software, Microsoft Flight Simulator X.

Step-by-step instructions are posted nearby so that anyone may start the simulation solo. Livingstone said the club wants to hire a trained student to teach the public to operate the simulator and hire a flight instructor to allow anyone to obtain a real pilot license.

“We’re looking into working with extended education to bring forward this flat ground school program that would help students get their pilot’s license at HSU.”

Sarah Livingstone

“We’re looking into working with extended education to bring forward this flat ground school program that would help students get their pilot’s license at HSU,” Livingstone said.

Just like getting a license to drive a car, the two requirements for a pilot’s license—as defined by the Federal Aviation Administration—are to pass a written test and record 40 hours of flight practice with a professional.

David Marshall, the advisor to the PC Gaming Club, said a pilot-in-training may save a significant amount of money for the 40 hours of practice by using a simulator rather than a real, gasoline-consuming airplane.

A nearby supplemental book for pleasure reading rests on the flight simulator desk at the Humboldt State University Library on Sept. 23. | Photo by Michael Weber

“The cheapest airplane is right around $100 an hour. On top of that, you get another $30 an hour for your instructor,” Marshall said. “So every hour, an airplane costs $130. In the simulator, if somebody else builds it for you, it’s just an instructor and it’s $30 an hour to put book time.”

The club is searching for more funding to provide a classroom to study the written test and a professional instructor for the simulator.

Livingstone said they are looking into purchasing the final flight instruments, headphones, a new cover for the chair and a pillow for younger pilots-in-training to access the simulator.

The project started one year ago when Marshall said he required the club to create a project with a positive, meaningful and educational experience.

“I suggested gently that gaming is really simulation,” Marshall said. “And there’s a lot of stuff we can do in simulation.”

The club then raised $10,000 for the furniture, chairs, equipment, computer and software by writing grants, fundraising and working with community members that provided some equipment and furniture.

Livingstone said the simulator caught the attention of HSU President Tom Jackson, Jr. and Provost Alex Enyedi, who are both aviators. Livingstone encountered unexpected enthusiasm when she met with Jackson.

“It was supposed to only be a 40-minute meeting, but it ended up being an hour and a half,” Livingstone said. “He was having so much fun.”

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