I’m still working on my private certificate but have hundreds of hours on the MSFS2000, and I firmly believe sims help IF you use them correctly.
To use MSFS correctly as a complement to real flight, one must:
download 3rd party freeware or shareware aircraft which have much more realistic panels, handling characteristics and operating procedures than the default aircraft
use 3rd party add-on software to fill in the realism voids, especially winds aloft and ATC
buy a stick or yoke/rudder pedal combo.
hand-fly instead of using autopilot all the time
navigate as you normally would rather
The only significant remaining differences between virtual & real are (1) peripheral vision and (2) force feedback on the yoke when the trim wheel is adjusted.
As for value, the sims are less than $100. Add-ons, if carefully selected, can be limited to $300. Not chump change, but a better investment than a $100 hamburger!
Oh, and unless you have a high-end CPU with lots of RAM, wait for FS2002. FS2000 was a total redesign, is inefficient, and has lots of bugs. FS2002 release was imminent, but has been put on hold with the WTC tragedy and resultant negative publicity. It’s ready to go out the door, and I still expect it to be available during the Christmas shopping season.
Are they worth it…more importantly, do they help? There is no substitute for experience in the air…but it is something to do late when the kids are in bed.
Thinking about Microsoft flight simulator 2002…Does/can it use a ‘stick’ or back to a yoke. Any suggestions are appreciated.