Navigraph, the leading sim charting and navigation data company, has released a large survey on the state of the home sim market. Surveying 15,000 users through various channels, including data collected by other manufacturers and software companies. In this post, we provide a reading from the viewpoint of home simulators and flight training.
The conclusion of the survey reads as follows:
“The typical flight simulator enthusiast is a 43 year old male from the United States. He flies simulators 2-3 times per week for about 5-10 hours in total and was introduced to flight simulation 20 years ago.
There is a 27% likelihood he already has some sort of pilot license. If so, he was introduced to flight simulation before he pursued his pilot license. Moreover, he has a bachelor’s degree, is full time employed, makes 50,000 USD per year before tax, and spends about 250 USD on software and 200 USD on hardware annually. He prefers X-Plane 11, but Prepar3D v. 4 is also popular.”
The data is extremely comprehensive and includes details related to platform used, virtual reality and more. What’s interesting to us at AFSBI is the portion related to relation to aviation. Of the users surveyed, 77% are not “working within aviation,” but 27% has some form of connection to it. Just under 10% is enrolled in a flight school, which makes for about 1,500 people surveyed. The largest class of those who have a pilot license are private pilots, followed by commercial and ATP. Most of the pilots responding, 68%, have acquired their simulator before starting their flight training. This is an important piece of data, as it may signal the relevance of simulation in perhaps inducing the first steps toward training. The majority of those flying real aircraft (44.71%) doesn’t seem to fly the same aircraft on their sim, only 4% always does. Interesting enough, see our post on certification, 22% finds it important that their simulator could be certified as a Qualified Training Device by either the FAA or EASA. This makes for a very substantial number of people interested in the possibility of certification.
On a more trivial note, Frankfurt airport is crowned as the most popular arrival and departure sim airport, followed by London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol. Obviously, not entry-level training airports, reflecting the fact that most users prefer to fly airliners rather than single, twin or rotor. As for the reason for using sims, entertainment is the major one, 44%, while training and research are at 9% combined. Most users fly IFR “most of the time.” The survey does not quantify how many, in total, use two-way ATC services such as Vatsim or PilotEdge, but rather refers in details to “Flying Online” such as with a virtual airline or while displaying traffic. However, it states that 68% found the experience of ATC and Traffic combined being more or very important. It also details the reason why not flying online, the major one was not being able to fly in real-time in a specific environment. 23% however, state that they “don’t know how to speak to air traffic controllers (protocol and radio alphabet).”
We found this survey very enlightening and a great introspection into the world of home-based flight simulation. We survey members of our Association on their simulator use and pilot certification. Although almost half of our Members are pilots, the figures are not discordant as for the type of sim used and their role in aviation. Find the survey at navigraph-flightsim-community-survey-2018-final. Congratulations to Navigraph and those companies involved in making this survey possible.