Flight simulation wasn’t always the sombre, dandruff-sprinkled academic he is today. Back in his youth he liked to giggle and gallivant as much as the next genre – indeed there was a time when you were almost as likely to find him larking about under blazing dirigibles and collapsing canyon bridges as fretting over fuel mixture settings and radar sub-mode choices.
Hyper-realistic flight simulator X-Plane 10 is sharing parts of its brain with an in-flight navigation system that will help aircraft find a safe landing spot during an emergency. The technology is the brainchild of X-Plane creator and aeronautical engineer Austin Meyer, who has incorporated it into his own plane.
The same physics engine that supports X-Plane 10 forms the basis for the tech, which also uses the simulator for extensive testing. As you fly, a stripped-down version of the code is constantly assessing nearby airfields based on landing strip length, quality, and local weather. It then uses the simulator’s flight model to plot a safe course down to the ground, painting ‘croquet hoops’ on the heads-up display to guide the plane down - turning a potentially terrifying situation into a game of Pilot Wings.