Not too long ago I discovered the world of flying with Condor. As a technologist, I immediately wondered whether Condor would be a good training tool for RL flight instruction. I’ve read quite a few beginner books on soaring but some of the written theory did not really connect until demonstrated by an instructor. The difference between crabbing and side-slipping, recovery from a spin, take-off weather cocking recovery on crosswind, and various other flight maneuvers are in my opinion much better explained with flight experience than on paper. A brief demonstration video in Condor would have given me the “aha” experience I got when first demonstrated by an instructor. Boxing the wake is another one of those experiences you could practice a few times in a simulator before attempting in real-life. The list goes on.
With that said, I wonder whether current glider flight instruction is outdated. Big time airline and fighter pilots all spend hundreds of hours in a simulator, practicing various maneuvers. As student glider pilots we get to spend 20 to 30 flights with an instructor and never actually experience a rope break at less than 200 ft. In Condor world, one can try to push hard on the rudder to “turn faster” in an attempt to land on the strip, but the incipient spin and disastrous consequences will also be felt. This may all be a “video game” but that’s not how I experience Condor.
With sufficient time spent on Condor, one gets immersed in this virtual experience so that crashes end up feeling very real and uncomfortable. It’s an emotion I take with me on real-life flights and reminds me to think about my contingency plan when floating behind the tug – a couple hundred feet above the ground with no way to “turn faster”.
UPDATE 5/20/2013: Frank Paynter wrote a great article about how his Condor simulated experience prepared him to get out of a tough ridge soaring position.