Airplane flight is expensive. For activities such as pilot training, flight research, and recreation, flight simulation can provide a suitable, and less expensive, alternative to real airplane flight.
For the flight simulator to be effective, it must convey some degree of realism to the user. The simulator conveys realism in two ways: first, by accurately modeling the behavior of the real airplane, and second, by resembling, to some degree, the cockpit and surroundings of the airplane. In today's flight simulators, digital computers handle the task of determining the aircraft's motion, while various hardware imitates the environment of the cockpit.
This paper describes methods in implementing a basic flight simulator. The paper tries not to present a detailed analysis of a specific example, nor to be a tutorial on implementing a flight simulator. Rather, its purpose is to describe the mentality of flight simulation, which is often different from the mentality of related fields such as stability and control. This paper takes a broad look at simulation, often exploring different ways for a simulator to accomplish a given task.
The methods presented in this paper are mostly applicable to propeller-driven, subsonic airplanes. Most of the equations and methods described in this paper can be used, with straightforward modifications, for any rigid airplane. However, the equations require extensive modification to model flight vehicles other than airplanes, or airplanes with elastic modes, because many of the assumptions made about the aircraft are no longer valid.
The rest of the introduction describes the virtual world of the flight simulator, and how it represents the airplane and its environment internally.