Flight Sim Training Topics

Here are examples of topics that can be covered during remote coaching sessions to some level or another. 

For real-world students/pilots, not all topics are equally well-suited for practice in a desktop flight simulator. To help identify which topics will transfer better to the real airplane than others, I have assigned a “sim suitability score” to each topic:

  • ⭐⭐⭐ – High suitability for desktop simulator practice. Skills should transfer very closely to real-world flight operations
  • ⭐⭐ – Moderate suitability for desktop simulator practice. While there may be missing seat-of-the-pants or other environmental factors, the simulator still be a valuable tool for practicing basic procedures, habit/thought patterns, and visualization.
  • ⭐ – Low suitability for desktop simulator practice. These should be the last priority for attempting to practice in your simulator, if at all. There is a stronger possibility of negative learning transfer occurring. I would primarily wait until your real-world lessons before practicing these tasks. Even so, the simulator can still be a useful tool for explaining and visualizing the theory behind the topic.

SIM-01 | Basic aircraft control and trimming (AKA “hand flying”)

This is the critical foundation of your virtual airmanship skills that will allow you to hand fly your aircraft with ease and confidence 

SIM-02 | Navigation

Learn how to use the VOR, GPS, or FMS navigation equipment in your aircraft to fly a route

SIM-03 | Instrument approaches

Learn the basics of flying ILS, VOR, and RNAV approaches

SIM-04 | Visual approaches

Learn how to fly a visual approach using a VASI/PAPI and basic rules-of-thumb

SIM-05 | Traffic patterns

Learn how to fly a traffic pattern in a Cessna

SIM-06 | Landings

Learn tips for making smooth landings.

SIM-07 | Crosswind approaches and landings

Learn how to correct for wind drift when on final approach, and the basics of crosswind landings

SIM-08 | ATC communications introduction

Learn how to properly communicate with ATC (using US-based procedures) before connecting to an online network. Learn what frequencies to use, the phonetic alphabet, where to find the appropriate charts, etc.

SIM-09 | Flight planning

Learn the basics of choosing an appropriate route and altitude to your destination

SIM-10 | IFR charts

Learn the basics of reading SIDs, STARs, approach plates, and IFR enroute charts

SIM-11 | Landing performance

Learn how to prevent overruning the runway on landing. We will discuss the effect of runway conditions (and demonstrate it using your simulator), learn about landing distance and landing speed calculations, and when/how to go-around.

SIM-12 | Fly the world’s most challenging approaches

Let’s push the envelope and get your heart rate up by heading to the high altitude and hot climate of Quito (where you will get a first-hand introduction to the effects of density altitude); land on a runway on stilts in Madeira, Portugal; fly the River Visual runway 19 into DCA with its low altitude turn to the runway; or the extremely steep approach into Lugano, Switzerland.

SIM-13 | Maneuvers training

Learn some of the same maneuvers a real-would student pilot practices prior to their solo flight, such as slow flight, stalls, steep turns, and ground reference maneuvers.

SIM-14 | Intro to commercial-level maneuvers

Are you up for an extra challenge? These maneuvers will allow you to work towards complete mastery of your aircraft, and they are the maneuvers a pilot must learn (in the US) in order to obtain a real-world commercial pilot certificate: Chandelles, lazy 8s, steep spirals, 8s on pylons, power off 180s

PPL-01 | Intro flight and basic aircraft control (checklist use, engine start, runway incursion avoidance, runup, normal takeoff, 4 fundamentals, uncoordinated flight)

This is a basic introductory flight where we build the foundation for all future skills and maneuvers.

The emphasis here is on the visual cues needed to smoothly and confidently trim the aircraft, and an understanding of the concept of coordinated vs. uncoordinated flight. We will set up your simulator views to help reduce the reliance on instruments that often plagues students who initially learn in desktop flight simulators on their own.

While the control forces on your simulator will be different from the real aircraft, there is still significant value to this training – developing the proper scan patterns and reactions to deviations in altitude and heading.

Sim suitability score: ⭐⭐

PPL-02 | Basic aircraft control phase 2 (airspeed and configuration changes, VX and VY, climbing/descending turns at various bank angles, traffic pattern familiarization, taxi in wind)

Understand the concept of how climb/descent rates, power settings, airspeeds, and trim are all interrelated.

Sim suitability rating: ⭐⭐

PPL-03 | Flying slowly (angle of attack, slow flight, stalls)

The focus of this training module will be on the procedural aspects of performing the slow flight and stall maneuvers and thoroughly understanding concepts such as Angle of Attack. Keep in mind that your real-world instructor may have a different preference for how to setup for these maneuvers. Additionally, I can introduce you to the proper instincts for stall recovery, and why they are so critical. 

Sim suitability rating: ⭐⭐ (A good tool for aerodynamic visualization and understanding the concepts of AoA. The focus is NOT on the feel of the aircraft during high angle-of-attack flight (buffet, mushy controls, etc.) as we cannot expect your desktop sim to reliably reproduce these sensations.) 


PPL-04 | Flying with wind and ground reference maneuvers (tracking to the runway with wind, s turns, turns around a point)

Let’s crank up the wind and practice how to fly a desired ground track.

Sim suitability rating: ⭐⭐

PPL-05 | Engine failures and rejected takeoffs

Learn fundamental skills of flying a single engine aircraft – the need to be aware of a forced landing site at all times and the ABCD’s of an engine failure, including mastering the flow pattern to perform the manufacture’s recommended procedure for restarting the engine. While you won’t learn the muscle memory that is also extremely useful for efficiently performing this procedure in the real aircraft, if you sit in the real aircraft with the engine off for 10 minutes and practice the steps I will teach you, you will find that when your real-world instructor pulls the throttle back for your first simulated engine failure, you will be highly prepared.

Sim suitability rating: ⭐⭐

PPL-06 | Advanced flying slowly (turning stalls, spin awareness, demonstrated stalls)

Understand the concepts behind accelerated stalls and elevator trim stalls. We can also demonstrate the setup to the classic base-to-final stall-spin accident in a way that a whiteboard explanation cannot replicate.

Sim suitability rating:

PPL-07 | Steep turns

Gain an understanding of the concepts related to steep turns, such as the increase in load factor, its effect on the stall speed, choosing proper visual references, proper roll-out, etc.

Sim suitability rating:


PPL-08 | Landing toolbox (forward slips, go arounds, crosswind takeoffs and landings)

Learn the basic control inputs and aerodynamics behind forward slips to lose altitude and crosswind takeoffs/landings, as well as the decision making and procedural aspects of performing a go-around

Sim suitability rating: ⭐⭐ (There’s value in practicing the procedures associated with go-arounds, the basic mechanics of performing a forward slip, practicing wind-drift correction on approach, and visualizing the transition from a crab to a slip)


PPL-09 | ATC communications

ATC is like a new language. I’ll provide a basic script for your airport, then allow you to practice the proper phraseology and procedures until talking to ATC becomes second nature.

It’s highly recommended that as a “capstone” of this module, we connect to PilotEdge to build your confidence.

Sim suitability rating: ⭐⭐⭐


PPL-10 | Uncontrolled airport operations

Learn how to properly enter and exit the pattern at an uncontrolled airport and make the necessary radio communications

Sim suitability rating: ⭐⭐


PPL-11 | Advanced emergency procedures

Practice the POH procedures in detail for emergencies you may only talk about, but never get a chance to see, during your real-world flight training, such as various fires, partial power loss, communications issues, electrical malfunctions, flight control failures.

Sim suitability rating: ⭐⭐⭐ (Unlike in the real aircraft, in the simulator we can safely fail various systems and allow you to perform the procedures from the POH.)


PPL-12 | Approaches and landings

You cannot learn how to properly land the aircraft in your home simulator and expect the skill to transfer to the real aircraft, so we will not make this a focal point! Unless you have an immersive, full-motion simulator, you will be lacking the visual and kinesthetic cues necessary to flare the aircraft.

However, we can still focus on performing a stabilized approach, the proper scan pattern when on final approach, making precise corrections when you deviate from glide path or speed, and centerline control on final approach.

Sim suitability rating: ⭐⭐ for stabilized approaches, ⭐ for the flare and landings


PPL-13 | Short and soft field takeoffs and landings

Learn the procedural aspects of performing short and soft field takeoffs and landings.

Sim suitability rating: ⭐⭐

PPL-14 | Basic instrument flight (4 fundamentals, 180 out of IMC, unusual attitude recovery, VOR orientation and tracking)

Luckily, the sim is very well-suited to practice basic instrument flying skills. I will teach you the basic principles of scanning the primary flight instruments, using VORs and GPS, the steps for an unusual attitude recovery, and simulate a scenario where you inadvertently enter IMC and need to get out.

Sim suitability rating: ⭐⭐



PPL-15 | Cross country – basic

Learn the basics of pilotage, dead reckoning, and requesting flight following on a short cross country flight. Additionally, learn how to use the autopilot in your aircraft.

Sim suitability rating: ⭐⭐⭐


PPL-16 | Night flying (illusions and light gun signals)

A quick intro to the risks and special procedures associated with night flight

Sim suitability rating: ⭐



PPL-17 | Cross countries – full

Opening flight plans, pilotage and dead reckoning, GPS use, FSS, engine leaning, diversion, lost procedures, estimating ground speed and ETA

Sim suitability rating: ⭐⭐⭐



PPL-18 | Class B airspace procedures

Simulate a departure from, an arrival to, or a transition of, your favorite class B airspace. Or even better: Let’s do it on PilotEdge

Sim suitability rating: ⭐⭐⭐



PPL-19 | Max gross weight and CG effects

Demonstrate the adverse effects of flying at/above max gross weight, and at the limits of center of gravity, on aircraft performance

Sim suitability rating: ⭐⭐⭐

IR-01 | Basic instrument maneuvers

Instrument checks during taxi, scanning & 4 fundamentals, finding pitch & power setting for your aircraft, standard rate turns, airspeed changes, left turning tendencies, engine instrument awareness, constant rate/airspeed climbs and descents, vertical S, S1, S2, slow flight, steep turns

IR-02 | Partial panel

Learn how to control the aircraft in IMC without the attitude indicator or directional gyro

IR-03 | Navigation

Ensure you have a perfect understanding of VOR and GPS navigation (especially with reverse sensing!), develop your ability to balance your instrument scan between the primary flight instruments and the navigation instruments, and learn how to correct for wind drift.

IR-04 | Holding

Learn how to enter and fly a holding pattern. With the ability to quickly reposition the aircraft, we can practice this far more efficiently than you will be able to in a real aircraft. After mastering the basics, we will introduce wind of various levels to see the effect on entering and flying a hold.

IR-05 | Autopilot use

Learn how to use the autopilot to reduce your workload.

IR-06 | Approaches

Learn how to brief and fly VOR, LOC, GPS, and ILS approaches

IR-07 | Cross country

Put it all together and fly an actual cross country flight, preferably on an online ATC network such as PilotEdge

IR-08 | Emergency procedures

Practice handling various emergencies while in IMC such as electrical failures.

IR-09 | Instrument takeoff in 0-0 conditions

This is mostly a fun demonstration of what you DON’T want to do in the real aircraft – take off with absolutely zero visibility!

IR-10 | Departing and arriving uncontrolled airports

Learn how to get your clearance, what an IFR release is, and how to fly various obstacle departure procedures (ODPs) throughout the country. And don’t forget to cancel your IFR flight plan!

IR-11 | Circling approaches

Learn how to fly an approach to one runway, but maneuver to land on another runway after reaching “circling minimums.”

FR | Flight review prep

Practice your skills in preparation for a flight review.

IPC | Instrument proficiency check (IPC) prep

Practice approaches, holding, partial panel, and other IFR topics in preparation for an IPC.

MISC-01 | Understand aerodynamics; stall speeds; aircraft stability

Using the capabilities of your simulator, you will learn the basics of aerodynamic theory, such factors affecting lift and drag, L/D max, excess power/thrust, the effect of flaps, a complete understanding of angle of attack, the relationship between pitch, power, and airspeed, the difference between IAS and CAS, the effect of bank angle on stall speed, aircraft stability…and more!

MISC-02 | Taxiing, airport operations and markings

Taxi around a complex airport and learn how to interpret airport signage and runway/taxiway markings

MISC-03 | Simulated turn-back

You’re in a Cessna 172 and your engine fails at 500 feet after takeoff. What do you do?

MISC-04 | Compass errors

Learn the errors associated with the magnetic compass when you accelerate the aircraft and when you make turns

MISC-05 | Altimeter errors

Learn the errors associated with the altimeter when you fly through a changing pressure area without resetting it, or when you fly into a colder temperature zone

MISC-06 | High density altitude, high weight, etc.

Learn how the aircraft reacts at high density altitudes, high weights, and at various CG loadings

MISC-07 | Descent planning

Learn how to plan a descent when you don’t have VNAV, using rules of thumb and a reference table

MISC-08 | Complex aircraft operation

Learn how to operate aircraft with a constant speed propeller

MISC-09 | Lost comm

Practice the procedures for lost communications

MISC-10 | Graveyard spiral

Demonstrate the graveyard spiral, how to avoid it, and how to recover from it

MISC-11 | Runway optical illusions

Learn about the effect of runway slope on your perception of height above the runway, using interesting airports such as Courchevel Airport in France as a demonstration

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