I've logged a few hours in real aircraft (first a Diamond Katana DA-20, then latterly several Cessna 172s) and, if I had the cash, I'd get a real pilot's licence. For now, at least, I have to make do with a simulator.
Microsoft's Flight Simulator X is not bad, even if not as technically excellent as X-Plane, and it does have an exceptional set of free and commercial add-ons. What a pity Microsoft disbanded Aces Studio. X-Plane is already a formidable competitor against FSX but, for me, it won't replace FSX until I can get X-Plane versions of all my most indispensable add-ons:
Back in early 2007, I decided that on no account was a flight simulator complete without decent physical interface electronics, to say nothing of rudder pedals, a pair of throttle quadrants, and a decent yoke. (I am having to put up with a joystick until I can afford the latter.) IFR flying is quite busy enough without having to mess with a mouse and keyboard.
At the time, there were a few commercial offerings, but they were all of them absurdly expensive, and none of them particularly flexible in terms of the very limited space available — so I began Project Amethyst, intended to be a platform on which I and others could develop fully custom electronics and avionics interfaces for their simulators. Project Amethyst took something of a back-seat when I started at Cambridge, but at last in 2011 I managed to finish "NARG" (Navigation, Autopilot, Radios and GPS — admittedly neither the most inventive name, nor the most complete, seeing as it also includes controls for the magnetos, tank selects, Kollsman altimeter adjustment, and lights (amongst others) of twin-engine reciprocating engine light aircraft).
The current status of that project is that NARG has been built, the host software debugged, and the USB firmware mostly debugged (a few performance problems remain for when I get time.) Source is available on Sourceforge, linked via the project's website.
Over the Christmas of 2011, I wrote and published the package FSX Preserve State, which further enhances the realism of simulated flight by making aircraft state including fuel, switches, radios and navigation controls persistent between sessions. Better make sure you check fuel quantity as part of the pre-flight checks from now on!
Theory and practice of flight
$Id: aviation.html 962 2012-01-11 18:27:57Z djm202 $