My Birthday present this year could not have been any more exciting! A flight simulator experience with a Boeing 737-700 (next generation!). After all, you are supposed to invest money in experiences rather than consumption! A cool experience is something you won’t forget and no one can’t take away from you.
See the video of my adventure here: http://vimeo.com/32217022
The whole day at work before my experience I felt quite nervous, in the knowledge that I would soon be piloting a state-of-the-art Boeing Jet!
Sitting in the cockpit, I was overwhelmed by all the buttons, control columns, flick swtiches and pedals. No wonder it needs two pilots and a flight engineer to monitor a Boeing flight deck!
I noticed that all the buttons looked quite “old school” – for a next generation Boeing I expected a totally digitalised cockpit. The reason for that might be that Boeing’s design philosophy is to build planes that are not as highly automated and sophisticated as the Airbus, but more reliant on manual controls, leaving final authority over the flight control to the pilot as opposed to Airbus who believes the fly-by-wire computer should have final flight authority and correct the pilot.
In the aviation industry, it is a much heated debate as to which design / technology is the better / safer one. Fact is, both airplanes have equally excellent safety records. Personally, I do feel safer in a Boeing plane. After all, if the Airbus computer freezes or is faulty, the pilot will not be able to re-gain control.
As part of the simulator training, you can chose from 14,000 airports on where to depart from and where to land. For my two flights, I chose:
Sydney – Berlin
London Heathrow – Cape Town
My departure from Sydney was a bit rocky as I had to figure out how the controls work– the Boeing steering control is located right in front of the pilot – you pull the yoke backwards to gain altitude and push it forwards to pitch the nose down and dive. To my right, was the thrust lever – full power for departure! Meanwhile, my co pilot (who was indeed a “real pilot”) took care of the flaps, gear and co-ordinates.
You have to be very authoratitive on the controls and use a bit of force on the steering control as well as keeping in mind the fact that the huge jet doesn’t react straight away but with a few seconds delay. While getting a feel for the controls I heard a number of confusing alarms: One of them sounded very familiar to me from watching my favourite TV Show “Air crash investigations”. A computurised female voice annouced: “Terrain, Terrain” – I was steering the plane dangerously to the ground – Oooops! By pulling the nose up, I recovered the plane quickly! A pink cross on the flight display (which indicates altitude, speed and level) (inerst pic of flight control) acts as a reference for the pilot on how to fly the plane.
The landing in Berlin was smooth despite crosswinds. I should mention that I don’t have a driving license (my co-pilot kept telling me to use the steering column like a steering wheel in car! Not very helpful if you have never driven a car!) so I was proud of myself to have landed the jet safely!
It was a great experience and I cannot wait to do it again soon!