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Too much realism in flight simulation?

As a (non-active) instrument-rated pilot, one of my favorite diversions is X-Plane—as it’s the closest I’ll ever get to flying the “big iron.” There are realistic touches in many spots in the sim, including the occasional bird flock visible during takeoff or landing at some airports. Now I’d seen these flocks on many occasions, but hadn’t realized that they were actually…involved…in the simulation.

But the other day, I was taking off in a 747 out of Portland (not like we really get those here), and a flock flew across the runway just after I rotated. Despite my best efforts, the 747 flew right through the clump of birds, and the he results were…quite surprising, and more gory than I was expecting. Read on for the details and a (too realistic?) screenshot.

So as the plane flew through the birds, I heard a couple loud thuds, and this then appeared on the windshield:

I was definitely not expecting a screenful of blood and gore from the encounter! Even worse, though, was that an engine also ingested a bird or birds, for that engine immediately shut down, 100 feet off the ground. You can see the evidence of the broken engine in the big version of the screenshot (hover and click to see) on the full panel—note that the output for one engine is zero while the other three are idling. (I took this after making a successful, if not pleasant, emergency landing.)

But really, it was the windshield visual that really got my attention. It’s a level of detail and realism that I’m not sure I really need!

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