I met a gentleman today who is part of a government body that investigates air traffic-related accidents. They have found Flight Simulator 2004 to be very effective simulator for re-creating particular accidents - and in some ways, because of its detailed rendering and physics, more effective than custom in-house simulators!
They were apparently able to use control data obtained from in-flight systems to almost perfectly re-create, in FS2004, a particular accident where the conditions resulted in the pilot being unable to slow down the plane on the runway, which caused the plane to skid off the runway's end. I thought it spoke volumes for FS2004's physics engines that it repeatedly produced almost exactly the same result as Real Life!
It reminded me of a Siggraph paper I read in my previous job about the cloud generation and rendering algorithm for Flight Simulator 2004.
The graphical stakes are quite high in FS2004 - these aren't just "pretty clouds," they're conveying information about the weather systems around the plane.
Add this to the list of ways in which computer simulations can be more than just games!