I have been a fan of flight simulator since it first came out in DOS. Those were the days when the planes were made up of about 100 pixels and the entire game fit on a few floppy disks.
Even though Microsoft recently announced they will be creating a new version called Microsoft Flight, it still won’t be able to compare to the flight simulators at Delta Air Lines training facility in Atlanta.
Delta has about 30 simulators of many different aircraft types. They even have a few for planes they no longer fly, since other airlines will train their pilots on Delta’s simulators. I was lucky enough to try my skills in a Boeing 737-200. I have flown an F/A-18 simulator, an E/A-6B sim, had time on MS Flight Sim and taken the controls a few times when flying in personal aircraft, but this was the largest I have even “flown.”
What an awesome set up. A full replica cockpit of a Boeing 737 with full motion. On the first flight we started out at the fake Atlanta airport, parked at the gate. Instead of having to be pushed back by a tug and wait in line to take off, we were able to push a button and be whisked to the end of one of the runways to take off.
My guide Mike asked if I fly. I told him I do not, gave him the run-down of my experience and we were off. He set my flaps for me and get me set. I was able to put the throttle up half way for a warm up, then full throttle. We were off. Hit V1, then V2 and rotate. Delta Manager of Media Relations, Trebor Banstetter was brave enough to take the flight with us and video the experience.
Now, I have never really flown a Boeing 737-200 before, but it sure seemed real. The sounds, the motion, the response of the aircraft. The aircraft felt heavy and responded just how I assumed it would. The motion was quite cool. When we sped up, it would tilt back, giving the impression of speed. Again when we slowed, it would tilt forward. When we banked, it banked and so forth.
Flew around the airport and set up for a landing. From the days of flying with my father, I knew of the red and white lights were there to help me on my slope path. At the time, I forgot they were called Visual Approach Slope Indicator (VASI), but I remembered his saying, “Red and white, you’re alright. Red over red, you’re dead.” These (and Mike) helped to guide me down at the correct rate.
I was able to land pretty well dead-on where I should have. Touched town and put the reverse thrusters on. I was supposed to let up at 80kts, but forgot to put my feet on the peddles to brake the aircraft, so I came to a complete stop with the thrust reversers. Oh well.
This is where the video ends, but we weren’t done. I turned around on the runway and did it over again. The second time it was a pretty rough landing, but I got the brakes correct and we still were on the runway. Probably would have had some negative feedback from the passengers, but what can you expect from David Airlines that is flying a Boeing 737-200?
Mike asked if we wanted to do something fun? Well, heck I thought we were doing fun stuff, but sure. With another push of a button we were all of a sudden at Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington, DC. He took the controls (with my permission, since I was in the Captain’s seat) and we had a quick take off and buzzed the Washington Monument, Capital Building and White House. After the scenic tour, I was able to land the plane safely back at DCA.
For me, this was all fun (a lot of fun), but these simulators are very important for training pilots. I had easy scenarios and help from Mike. However, pilots are given challenging cases like severe weather, loss of power and much worse. These simulators help prepare pilots to react to situations they hope they will never encounter.