On Friday evening, when he flew the stolen 76-seater passenger plane over Seattle for nearly an hour, an air traffic controller asked Richard B. Russell if he felt comfortable "just flying the plane"  Mr. Russell, 28, a Horizon Air associate whose duties involved handling and de-icing aircraft but did not fly, responded, "I've played video games before, so I know what I'm doing."
Gary Beck General Manager of Horizon Air, a subsidiary of Alaska Air Group, said that Russell – who died when the Q400 turboprop plane landed on an island about 30 miles from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport ̵
"Commercial Aircraft are complex machines, "Beck said at a press conference on Saturday," I do not know how he made the experience he did. "
Approved flight instructors and aviation experts agreed Sunday about how much video games or games Flight simulators could prepare someone to pilot an airplane.
"Yes, I believe that a civilian who has a thorough flight simulation experience, ta "A plane without real piloting experience can start, roll and take off," Ryan Barclay, founder and CEO of Fly Away Simulation, an online hub, "While" professional "flight simulation enthusiasts said Sunday.
While professional simulators with full-motion cockpits offer immersive experiences, YouTube tutorials and online flight simulators from gaming platforms such as Steam provide more readily available training. Rick Todd, president of the National Association of Flight Instructors, said on Sunday it never occurred to him that anyone who has just had a simulator experience – wh I described it as very realistic, right down to the Switches in a cockpit – would be able to do what Mr Russell did.
Mr. Todd said he was also surprised to see someone without a pilot's license lift the plane from the ground without breaking it, not to mention the maneuvers that Mr. Russell carries out on Friday.
Videos taken by spectators during Mr. Russell's flight showed the plane diving deep, doing wide loops and at least one upside down roll. Some of Russell's actions, such as knowing he was able to perform certain air movements at a certain altitude, suggested that he might have learned it from a flight simulator, Todd said.
"It is highly unlikely, but not impossible, that he has never had any flying except in a virtual world," he said.
Given the friendly working atmosphere at the airports, it would not be unusual if Mr. Russell had learned to start an engine. One of the mechanics, he said.
Flying a Q400, a complex turboprop aircraft, would require more training, in addition to the requirements for a private pilot's license, said Richard McSpadden, the executive director of the Association of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Institute for Aviation Safety. A pilot would also need recommendations from flight instructors for specific skills to fly a Q400.
Mr. McSpadden said he found it very unlikely that Mr. Russell had the skills simply from a simulation. He noted that the record of Mr. Russell's conversation with air traffic controllers suggested he was not familiar with aeronautical terminology, but he knew enough to try aerial maneuvers.
Thomas Anthony, Director of the Safety and Security Program at the University of Southern California, acknowledged that there were "parts of the approach and landing process" that could be taught with a simulator. Nevertheless, he emphasized emphatically: "You can operate a plane safely not only on the basis of a simulator."
He said that the wide availability of simulators – as with so many other technologies that have proliferated in recent years – is bilateral road. "It's just another thing that needs to be addressed, understood and mitigated," he said.
Professor Anthony referred to the results of the 9/11 Commission, which concluded that the authorities responsible for the security of the Americans are competent In the years leading up to the 9/11 attacks, aviation had a broad "failure to defend".
An equally serious danger was the refusal to question certain assumptions – for example, that a person who has no criminal background had terrorist groups working safely behind the scenes. "But that's not enough," said Professor Anthony. Sophisticated simulators and private emotional turmoil could turn out to be a deadly mix, he said
. Barclay said landing is "an art form" that can not be learned from a PC-based simulator.
"There is one important thing that separates simulators from real life," Barclay said. "If you crash in the simulator, you can reset and restart it."