Other than actually flying a jet, I don’t think there’s anything higher on my aviation geek wish list than spending time in a flight simulator. Think of a flight simulator as one of the biggest (and most expensive) video games ever built.
What’s A Flight Simulator And What The Heck Are You Doing In One?
They’re big. Like, small 2 bedroom cottage at the beach kind of big. And, they’re up on giant pneumatic stilts. And, they’re expensive. Airlines buy flight simulators to conduct training for their pilots. Pilots need training hours in the specific type of plane that they’re flying.
As a general rule, flight simulators don’t have a lot of free slots, especially for mere mortals. That’s why this was a wicked cool surprise. We were in Toronto to spend a little time with Air Canada. They were just about ready to unveil their new Signature Suite and we were supposed to get a sneak peek. While it really was a truly special sneak peek, it’s hard to rival an hour in a flight simulator. On top of that, we’d get to pilot a flight simulator for the brand new Boeing 737 Max.
The Boeing 737 MAX is a the newest version of the incredibly popular single-aisle Boeing aircraft. If you’ve flown more than once or twice in your life, chances are you’ve been on a 737 of some sort. I actually got to fly the delivery flight a few months ago of one of the very first production 737 MAX aircraft.
Anyway, let’s go flying!
Flying The Boeing 737 MAX
The simulator has a true pilot and co-pilot seat, a seat for the instructor and two observer seats. For just about an hour, our instructor helped Ben, Gary and I take off and land. Pearson Airport in Toronto was our base. We took loops out around the CN tower and then back into the pattern for landing. I couldn’t believe how detailed the simulator was compared to others I’ve been in before.
I was the last to hop in the pilot seat. Not sure if the instructor was bored at that point, but he asked me, “Do you want a bit of excitement?” Now, I’m not the best simulator pilot in the world. I got the plane off the ground and had done mostly okay so far. I said, “Uh, I guess. What exactly did you have in mind?”
What’s That Siren?
His reply, “Great. We’ll whip up some excitement. This will be fun.” Uh, sure. About 5 seconds later, a siren started blaring and lights started flashing. One of our two engines was on fire! He quickly helped me silence the siren and extinguish the fire. He started walking me through how to fly with one engine. Ben got some video of what the siren sounded like as I was learning how to put out a fire in midair.
For those unaware, most of flying on a plane like a Boeing 737 MAX is done with the yoke once you’re in the air. That’s the thing that kinda looks like the steering wheel of KITT from Knight Rider (old person reference). You’ve seen it on plenty of movies. The technology will assist you a reasonable amount when it comes to turning and navigating the plane, not too dissimilar to power steering. In this case, though, I’d need to use the rudder pedals. Those are two pedals at your feet. Don’t think of these as gas and brake. They’re attached too each other, such that when you push down with your left foot the right rudder pedal lifts up towards you.
Learning To Fly With One Engine
To keep the plane level, I needed to use the rudder pedals along with the yoke. I was making different movements with my hands than I was with both feet. And, I needed to watch altitude, rate of descent and speed on my way back to the runway. The good news is that simulator is still one piece. The better news is that I safely landed the plane. On the runway. And, I didn’t bounce. But, it wasn’t a pretty landing. Not even close. Once I landed, I forgot to stop using the yoke and just focus on the pedals. Fortunately, I was able to get the brakes locked down before I found my way into the grass alongside the runway. I already had a ton of respect for pilots, but have even more now. The sheer amount of things they need to be trained for is mind-boggling.
It’s clear Ben has more hours in flight simulators, playing flight video games, or just better reflexes as a younger guy. His performance was the best of the 3 of us. He even asked the instructor to spin up some moderate turbulence during his ride.
His landing was pretty darn perfect. Since I don’t have video of my single-engine adventure landing, I’ll leave you with Ben’s return to Pearson.
The Final Two Pennies
I can’t thank the folks at Air Canada enough. This was truly a special experience for me. I never imagined I’d get to spend time in a flight simulator once in my life. Now that I’ve done it a few times, it’s even cooler. Our instructor was awesome and it was an hour I won’t soon forget.
The post An Aviation Geek Dream! I Got To Spend An Hour In A Boeing Flight Simulator! was published first on Pizza in Motion