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Friday, January 05, 2007

9/11 and Flight Simulators

Penny Arcade notes that the phrase seen in the Moral Kombat trailer about terrorists using computer games to train for 9/11 is a little questionable. This seems like the kind of thing that merits a little digging.

Let's start with what is known. On page 5 of staff statement 4 of the 9/11 commision report, it notes that " the existence of computer-based software programs that provides cockpit simulation available on the open market to the general public. According to experts at the FAA such computer-based training packages, including products that simulate cockpit controls of the Boeing 757 and 767, provided effective training opportunities." Also, in statement 16, it notes that they "also used flight simulator computer games and analyzed airline schedules to figure out flights that would be in the air at the same time."

Section five of the report details this more specifically: "They used the game software to increase their familiarity with aircraft models and functions,and to highlight gaps in cabin security."

So we can all agree that PC flight simulator software was used during the planning. What about actually flying the planes? Atta, the pilot of Flight 11, was instrument certified, had flight deck videos to preview and clocked time on a real 727 simulator. al-Shehhi, who flew Flight 175, travelled and trained with Atta. The pilot of Flight 77, Hanjour, took flying lessons and was FAA certified for a time but had several complaints about his poor skills and English. Jarrah, who flew Flight 93, was licensed to fly small planes and had training for large jets.

In other words - none of the pilots of the 9/11 attacks relied ... even remotely ... on PC game software to launch their attacks. To state otherwise is completely ignore the facts surrounding the men and the training they did recieve.

Of course, this is common sense. It goes to the core problem with the logic that games are capable of wetwiring people to perform precision tasks - nobody actually believes it will work. Cops don't train on Dreamcasts alone. No soldier ever hit the field with nothing but Doom under his (or her) belt. The "virtual" of virtual reality is still so broad of a gap that it's simply not realistic.

I doubt games will ever get that realistic. Simply because it isn't much fun. I have fired handguns and I completely suck at it. By comparison, I can instantly be a highly trained space marine anytime I want ... because it's a game.

The discussion of the day is over morals and behavior - but training is simply not the current issue.

And as a footnote - Lieberman's off the table as a legitmate speaker on this issue since he's fine with violence and kids as long as it line his pockets with cold hard cash.

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Anonymous said...

I've sure you've already seen this on your RSS, but I think it has the makings to be a very interesting film.

Josh said...

That's one that should be worth seeing. The more I think about Moral Kombat, the more I'm a bit down on it.