The technological marvel of Microsoft Flight Simulator isn't just the faithful recreation of the entire planet you can fly over, but also an accurate simulation of real-world weather you can fly through. If it's raining, snowing, or storming somewhere around the globe and you fly your plane there in the game, you'll experience that weather just as it's happening in real life, and in real time.
The same goes for extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Ian (opens in new tab), the massive Category 4 storm currently making landfall on the Florida coast after causing at least 2 deaths in Cuba and leaving the entire island without power.
"You could fit #Charley inside the eye of #Ian."@JimCantore is LIVE in Punta Gorda, Florida showing storm footage and explaining the forecast: pic.twitter.com/OzAqbdlcQTSeptember 28, 2022
While Hurricane Ian is a serious threat, Microsoft Flight Simulator allows players a safe way to observe the storm and experience what it might be like to fly through such an extreme weather event. And virtual pilots are taking off to do just that, as they did back in 2020 when Hurricane Laura made landfall in the southern United States.
As you can see in the in-game image posted on Reddit by Unstopy, who appears to be on an aircraft carrier off the coast, Hurricane Ian has drawn a crowd of Microsoft Flight Simulator players who want to take a look at the storm up close and test their flying skills in the heavy winds. (If you're curious how Microsoft Flight Simulator sources its realistic, real-time weather, we've got you covered (opens in new tab).)
Some pilots are sharing videos of themselves flying above the hurricane's threatening clouds, such as JBTheExplorer (opens in new tab), who also provided PC Gamer with the stunning screenshot at the top of this article while flying an F-16 above Ian. They've posted more amazing images on Twitter (opens in new tab).
Other pilots are attempting to fly their way right through the center of the storm in various kinds of aircraft, getting a close look at the clouds, rain, and even some harrowing lightning strikes.
Granted, there is a bit of an odd feeling to the fact that a devastating storm is drawing virtual onlookers, almost in the vein of disaster tourism (opens in new tab). Hurricane Ian is a massive threat to those in its path, and to have gamers flocking to it in Microsoft Flight Simulator while people on the ground are in genuine danger can feel a shade off-putting. On the other hand, it's an opportunity to observe the power of nature up close without risking your life, and curiosity about how the storm looks and acts in the simulation is understandable.
If you or someone you know is in the path of Hurricane Ian, please visit the National Hurricane Center (opens in new tab), as well as the NOAA's website for storm forecasts (opens in new tab) and safety information (opens in new tab).