As a child, I wanted to be a pilot when I grew up. My dad worked for a major airline as a mechanic and I spent a fair amount of time in and around aircraft as a result.
Dad was also a big computer nerd who always had the latest and greatest personal computer in the house. Those two interests combined in the form of flight simulators. The first I can recall was Chuck Yeager’s Advanced Flight Simulator on the Commodore 64, a program which used simple geometry and rows of lights on the ground as reference points to indicate that you were moving. Later came Microsoft Flight Simulator in its various and progressive forms, raising the bar of realism and fidelity with each new version.
Having recently built a new computing rig, I have a renewed interest in flight simulation after many years away from it. I’m currently deliberating between the purchase of Microsoft Flight Simulator X, the most recent yet dated entry in that franchise, or the more contemporary X-Plane 10.
One of the truly amazing selling points of the latter is its immersive recreation of the entire planet. X-Plane 10 utilizes terrain and scenery auto-generation built atop data obtained from OpenStreetMap to simulate your town – and every other one on Earth – with amazing fidelity. In one video demonstrating the technology, the lead developer boasts that the road system proves adequately detailed to serve as a driving simulator. Indeed, YouTube videos showing a virtual drive down X-Plane 10’s streets prove reminiscent of any given trip through any given suburb, complete with picket fences and SUVs.