The Gang of Five
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For the month of April we have a new character showcase.  Please come say hello to Archie!  He came out of his cave, just for this!  The character showcase topic for this month can be found here.

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Flight Simulation

somerandomfangirl

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So, today, after a few months of waiting, I finally got to go on the flight simulator of which I got a voucher for on my birthday. I'm fairly sure there are quite a few places in the world that do this. This isn't the Microsoft games or things you get in a video arcade; this is a very sophisticated 1:1 scale of a proper commercial aircraft cockpit. I want to share my experience I had today:

I went to a place called the Aerodrome which is in Sywell, near Northampton in the UK. For any person like me who has a fascination with planes, it's a truly amazing experience. There, they have two Boeing 737 Next Generation (-600, -700, -800, -900ER) flight simulators. Seeing as I had flown on a 737-800 earlier this summer, I was really excited to see how my pilots would have flown it. I was really nervous at first, and then even more so when the instructor came out, but he was really friendly and set up the simulator for me before taking me, my friend and two members of my family in. I was sat in the Captain's seat while he took the First Officer's and he talked about how the plane would fly.

After that he gave me instructions on what switches to switch and the like, before we got the engines going. It looked complicated at first, but he explained it well and I got the hang of it. We also had to put in our desired route (I went from London Heathrow to Paris) so that we could navigate properly. So, in the end he powered the engines to speed down the runway while calling out the V1 and Rotate commands, while I pulled back on the control column and lifted off. That moment was truly breath-taking! :D

We climbed to an altitude of 35,000 ft, with me flying manually most of the time. The control column required a bit more strength than I first expected, but it wasn't too hard, and since I must have perfection, I always did the slightest movement to stay on the middle of the cross on the primary flight display that told me which pitch and direction I should have been at. The instructor said I flew like the super-precise autopilot, which was a really flattering comment. He actually seemed surprised that this was my first time 'flying' an aircraft. Mayday/Air Crash Investigation has taught me lots about aircraft, but I suppose it doesn't provide me with any actual experience. :lol

The instructor let me carry on flying the plane manually and let my friend sit in the First Officer's seat for a while to get a look at the view and the cockpit controls, which unfortunately ended up in starting our descent late. After a bit of a reckless nose dive (it was the qualified pilot's idea, not mine :lol), and an extended route we turned on the autopilot and guided it down to the runway. At the last minute the instructor turned off the autopilot and let me land manually, which was a bit shabby since I ended up going waaay too far right, but we did a touch and go since we still had some time left and we did a route around the airport before coming in for a second landing, this time without the autopilot doing anything at all. The second landing was a lot better, almost perfect. :p

So, finally I taxied to the airport (which I totally failed at, but I didn't quite end up on the grass, luckily), and found that the taxiing was probably the hardest part to get right, but I got no complaints from the guy. It is a difficult thing to get used to I suppose.

I'm planning to contact the pilot who went in with me and show my appreciation for his kindness and encouragement for me to pursue a career as a pilot, which is honestly my dream job. I think the least I can do for his friendliness during that simulation is to show my gratitude. :yes

Anyway, this is something I would definitely do again! If anyone has any interest in planes at all, I would definitely give this a go! I didn't find it too complicated. At first  it was just using the control column and following the route and then once we switched to the autopilot (which was just before starting the descent) I had to use a load of different controls to set bearings and altitudes to tell it what it needed to do. :)

So, if anyone wants to be a pilot in the future or just try it out, I would definitely recommend it, because the experience was truly awesome! For anyone in the UK, I would recommend the 737 simulator in the Sywell Aerodrome. The receptionist and the instructor gave us a very warm welcome, and the instructor was friendly, encouraging and informative. I will most certainly be going back there for another go. It had very realistic sounds and great views from the windows, as well as a unique experience that teaches you as well as lets you have loads of fun. I don't think I ever stopped smiling during the flight!

My friend took some videos of me 'flying' which I'll upload to YouTube once I've got them off her if anyone's interested in seeing them. Also, if anyone's got any questions about my experience in the simulator or about planes in general I guess (I'm not an expert, but I do know a few things about aviation), then feel free to ask me. I know it's a fairly long post for a recommendation, but I figured you guys should know the experience in detail if you didn't know what it would be all about. :)


StrutEggStealer

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It sounds like a really neat experience! Funny you mentioned the Aerodrome, I', reading a WWII story that mentions the Aerodrome quite frequently.
"Not all who wander are lost"
J. R. R. Tolkein


somerandomfangirl

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Nice, Strut! And yes, it was probably one of the best birthday presents I've ever had. :D

I'll try and get that video up tomorrow if possible so people can see what exactly happened (including a slightly funny moment when the autopilot turned the aircraft into a party plane :lol).

But here's the simulator I was in:



My friend was in the jump seat which was directly behind me so my actual face isn't in any of the photos, but that's half of the cockpit you can see there. I believe we were in the air at this point (seeing as it looks like we're in air and the landing gear is up), and he was explaining some of the other controls while we weren't doing too much.


bushwacked

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That looks really cool  :D Is it true there's about 50 different things to check before you'd prepare to take off? It all looks so complicated  :blink:


somerandomfangirl

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Well, you have to load fuel, and if you're doing it realistically you need to calculate passenger, luggage and fuel weight to make sure you're not too heavy to take off. There were a bunch of different switches on the overhead panel. I had to make sure the fuel pumps were on, the landing lights were on, the APU was working properly, and lets not forget the fasten seat belts and no smoking signs! :D There were also a few other things to switch on the front too, such as V1 and Rotate speeds (point of no stopping on the runway and takeoff speed), as well as putting in the route into the navigation system, and you also have to check things with Air Traffic Control. I didn't do any Air Traffic Control calls for the sake of more fun with the flying, but yes, it is a complicated process. There's a panel behind the engines throttles between the two pilots with another load of switches that changes which controller you'd need to talk to (different airports, different airspace, ground control, etc.).  It takes a lot of switching to do before you can actually put on the engines. I'm sure qualified pilots have learnt it all off by heart, though! (And if not I'm pretty sure there's a checklist to help them out. :DD)