Who: Retired advertising rep Doug Pelton, 70, of Wenatchee
What: Flight simulation in his basement. The visuals, sounds, radar, navigation and mathematics of wind, weight, time and fuel consumption. And, yes, a joystick for take-offs and landings guided by live “air traffic controllers” who complement the pilots in a virtual world of flight. Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide engage in this electronic pastime.
How: Three powerful computers use two separate data streams to feed seven monitors to create panoramic views in a virtual cockpit window. Microsoft Flight Simulator, an advanced gaming software package, ties together the flight details with real-time airport chatter, weather reports and flight patterns of actual aircraft aloft at any given moment.
Why: A nervous flier, Pelton decided in 1992 to ease his fears by learning the mysteries of what occurs behind the cockpit door on a commercial jet. He started with a rudimentary computer program, but his interest in virtual flying evolved through the years. Three years ago, he decided join the online community of flight simulation fans. Pelton said he’s still somewhat nervous on commercial flights, but his fears have mostly subsided.
Tech talk: “The logistics of filing a flight plan according to calculations for fuel loads, weather projections, the physics of aircraft in flight, real-time air traffic around real airports — well, it helps to be a an info freak.”