• Aviation expert says flight simulators can train amateur pilots

    By: Deborah Horne

    Updated:

    Horizon Airlines ground service agent Richard Russell told air traffic control he had some idea how to fly the aircraft because he played video games. 

    Aviation consultant Scott Hamilton says he could have learned to fly using an online flight simulator. But there is a lot more to flying an aircraft than just taking off and getting it into the air.

    "The whole idea of a loop-to-loop with the commercial airliner is just mind boggling," Hamilton said. "So maybe it's part of this your combat type of video game."

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    Like a lot of people, Hamilton is trying to figure out how Richard Russell learned to fly the airplane he took for a ride along Puget Sound Friday night.

    The only clue came from Russell, himself, who told air traffic control video games had taught him what to do.

    "I have no idea what kind of video games he might be talking about," Hamilton said.

    There are several flight simulators online and on YouTube. Hamilton said it is possible to learn the fundamentals of flying from a simulator; pilots have done it for decades.

    "You can learn how to takeoff, you can learn to land," he said. "The trick, particularly with an airliner-sized airplane, is what are your flap settings? What's your take offs?

    He said Russell indicated that flying wasn't what this joyride was about. After all, he told air traffic control, "If that goes good, I'm just gonna nose down and call it a night."

    "That's a pretty clear statement there," Hamilton said, "that he was on his final joy ride before he killed himself.”

    Hamilton believes Russell's actions will prompt big changes at the nation's airports.  They may require at least two ground service agents to be together at all times. It will likely be costly. 

    But he said no one wants a repeat of what happened Friday night at Sea-Tac Airport.
     

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