December 16, 2006:
Flight simulators are getting much less expensive, largely because of cheaper microprocessors, especially graphic processors. Large display technology has gotten cheaper as well. Ten years ago, a full function simulator cost about as much as the aircraft is simulated. Now, the cost is perhaps 20 percent the cost of the actual aircraft, and the simulator is more accurate.
Moreover, fuel costs have more than doubled in that time, making it much more cost-effective to use a simulator, than to actually fly the aircraft. It's gotten to the point where even countries that formerly could not afford simulators, like India and China, are finding is less expensive to go the simulator route. Both countries have seen their pilots benefit from improvised simulators (using entertainment type simulators, which are often quite accurate). But now countries like India and China can not only afford the current generation of simulators, but have the ability to build their own. These nations have also awakened to the reality that their high performance aircraft are really only useful if pilots get a lot of practice. Fuel costs make it impractical to let the pilots actually fly a lot, but simulators are another thing. While actually being in the air is still the superior form of training, current simulator technology has gotten a lot closer to the real thing.