Thursday, March 20, 2014

FBI Checks 777 Pilot's Flight Sim

When the Bear is not blathering on in this blog, he may be writing reviews for leading flight simulation venues. Microsoft Flight Simulator is not that realistic out of the box, but aftermarket airplanes can be incredibly so. For a hundred bucks or less you can have your very own 777 that operates and flies like the real thing. In fact, the Bear is working on a review of that very airplane now.

Bear's 777: almost every switch works; real-world navigation database

How realistic is a tricked-out Flight Simulator X (the final in Microsoft's famous franchise)? Realistic enough that many pilots unofficially use it to train with and practice airport procedures. Including airline pilots. Apparently, including Malaysian airline pilots whose 777s go missing. It is reported that Captain Zahrari Ahmed Shah's computer is being forwarded to the FBI to retrieve deleted flight sim files from his computer.

Why? Because it would be interesting to know if he had practiced diversions from the standard flight plan, wouldn't it? What better way to plan a hijacking than to fly as many dry runs as you care to in the privacy of your own study? (And way too complicated for a dramatic suicide.) Tonight, for example, the Bear could plan the original flight exactly as it was to be flown, load up with a good estimate of the amount of fuel the real plane would have carried, the same weather from the day it went missing, and see where he might be able to escape to.

All flights are logged in a database. The only legitimate reason I can think of for deleting the sim's pilot log is the rare instance of it causing a hang-up on start. (Honestly, I don't even think about mine, since I have a third-party one that puts my make-believe flights on Google Earth and does other cool stuff.) A "simmer" wouldn't normally delete the record of his pretend aviation accomplishments. There are other files that might be of interest, too. Oh, what an airplane geek am I.

Now, as mentioned before, there is nothing unusual about airline pilots "playing" Flight Simulator. A 777 pilot might very well have a virtual one, and several other types, too.* But deleted files? That does seem a little odd. Deleted or not, that computer will end up at Homeland Security's labs and they'll find them. Deleted doesn't mean gone (as some of the Bear's clients discover).

This just reinforces the Bear's strong feeling that this was a hijacking. Now more talk of debris. We'll see. It's going to take more than a somber press conference to shake the feeling that somewhere, that 777 is sitting in a hanger, and those people may be alive.

*You probably don't care, but the Bear has a 707, 727, 737 (both classic and Next Gen), a 747, 757 (a favorite), 767 and 777. And that's just the Boeings. He has a sweet Lockheed L1011, an MD-80, a DC-9 and an Airbus A320. The Bear lives to someday hear: "The life of everyone on board depends upon just one thing: finding someone back there who can not only fly this plane, but who didn't have fish for dinner."


  1. Is there anything the Bear can't do?

  2. Actually, yes, there is, which is why the Bear tends not to write about topiary or playing Bach fugues. Other than those two things, however, you'd be surprised what you can learn in 1300 years as a werebear.


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