First of all, if you don't have a joystick to play this game, you are going to want to invest in one. All purpose Navy jets were not designed to be flown with a two button mouse, and this game follows similar suit. Even a cheap joystick will do fine, but the presence of a hat trigger and a few easily reached buttons is a must. Second, learning all the controls and learning them well is going to take a while. Training and patience go hand in hand here. There are a lot of button commands that must be pulled off fast to ensure your survival.
The training section of PSF is laid out nicely and does a goof job of teaching you the ropes while you're outside of the plane. It covers material starting with the basics of flight to dive bombing, and is narrated by the same person who wrote the instruction manual. The author/narrator also happens to be a Major in the Marine Corps Reserve. This guy has logged over 850 hours of flight time in a Hornet, so he knows what he is talking about. But while the training lessons are good, the training missions could have used someone going through the procedures with you. Instead, you are put into the cockpit with no guidance except what you learned during the lessons. It becomes a bit of a nuisance going back and forth between the lessons and the simulator.
If you are lucky enough to make it through the training, you can try some of the missions. This is where you get a chance to show off your skills, and belive me, you are going to have to show some skills. These missions require knowledge of the plane, weapons, and enemies. One missile or anti-air site can end your day real quick. Missions start out with a brief description of what you have to do, and then you have to decide what weapons you're going to be carrying. Weapons range from sidewinders to tactical nuclear warheads, and deciding which ones to use will depend on the mission parameters. If you're going to be flying a long distance, extra fuel is a must. Will there be enemy air resistance? Air-to-air missiles might be a good idea in that instance.
There is also a mission editor within the game that allows the creation and customization of any mission offered. The actual editor is fairly simple to use, and shouldn't require too much time to master. This is a very important part of PSF as it gives the game a huge replay value. The possibilities seem almost endless, and the only restraints are that you have to use a single map. The map is quite big though, and offers a lot of room to play around in.