One of the steepest hurdles in instrument training is building the confidence and proficiency to talk to ATC on the radio. You know, mic fright. This is what startup company PilotEdge is all about. It’s a safe zone where pilots can file flight plans, pick up clearances and make frequency changes without the distractions and costs of flying a real plane.
Catering to flight schools, student pilots and simulator-enthusiasts, PilotEdge provides professional air traffic control services in the virtual skies. For a monthly fee, users connect to a virtual world complete with real controllers, home users and actual students in professional FAA approved flight-training-devices. But it’s not just for IFR training
PilotEdge offers virtual VFR services too. At New Jersey’s Aero Safety Training, I flew a Redbird simulator across the Mini Route (a VFR transition across Los Angeles’ airspace). The full-motion simulator does a lot to convince pilots that the flight is real, but listening to actual ATC chatter and responding to my callsign really pushed it over the edge. Mentally, the experience was indistinguishable from an actual flight.
But it’s not just for fancy flight schools. PilotEdge has full support for Microsoft Flight Simulator and X-Plane. Setup is simple and takes about 15 minutes. Home users share the same skies as contracted flight schools and are only limited by their own hardware. It’s a great way to polish up for that next IFR flight, or practice touch and goes at a towered field to regain proficiency.
Unfortunately PilotEdge doesn’t fit every simulated excursion. In an effort to provide greater coverage as well as traffic density, they only offer services in the Los Angeles and San Francisco service areas. Keith Smith, founder and CEO points out that location isn’t nearly as valuable as the authentic ATC experience.
PilotEdge is a great service and shows a lot of potential. As a training aide, it is a real value to student pilots. Due to the price point, I don’t see it catching on with the casual sim-enthusiast, but I fully expect to see die-hard virtual airline captains swearing by this product. It is flight schools who should strongly consider adopting PilotEdge. A flight instructor pretending to be ATC can only go so far. Coupled with a solid flight-training-device or PCATD, PilotEdge’s live air traffic controllers really do “engage your flying brain.”
You can find out more about PilotEdge at their official site.