The enterance to the Boeing Flight Services in Seattle, WA. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / NYCAviation.com
Boeing Flight Services (BFS) offers eight locations around the world that provides pilot, maintenance, composite and cabin crew training. Around the world, Boeing offers 80 flight simulators (eight are for the 787). The locations for the 787 training facilities are located in London, Singapore, Shanghai, Tokyo and of course Seattle. We recently had the opportunity to take a behind the scenes look at the pilot training part of the BFS facility located south of Seattle,WA.
Currently, Boeing has orders for 873 787 Dreamliners. For each new aircraft that gets delivered, there need to be pilots, technicians and flight crew that require training. Boeing works with their airline customers to provide a customized training package. They can choose to have their entire staff trained, or just a handful of trainers who return to the carrier armed with all the knowledge they need.
The room we were in had four simulators. Two for the 787, one for the 737 and one for the 767. Notice how they are painted in different Boeing liveries. Photo by David Parker Brown / AirlineReporter.com
How long it takes for a new pilot to be trained on the 787 depends on their previous experience. Since the 777 and 787 cockpits are so similar, it only takes pilots five days to be trained on the Dreamliner. A pilot who has flown other Boeing products (like the 767 or 737), it can take 13 days and if a pilot has never flown a Boeing product, it takes 20 days.
The section of the facility we visited held four simulators: two for the 787, one for the 737 and one for the 767. Before getting into full simulator, pilots will start out on a desktop simulation, which students are able to view a 3-D virtual 787 to learn about the aircraft before taking the controls.
Inside the Boeing 787 flight simulator. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / NYCAviation.com.
Next, pilots move to the flight training device that looks like a desk-mounted simulator and lets the flight crew become familiar with the instruments and airplane systems better before hitting the fully operation simulator.
Before each flight in the full simulator, pilots will sit down with their Boeing instructor to go over the details and expectations of the flight. Boeing flight instructors, on average, have 15,700 total time and at minimum, they are required to have at least 5,000 hours with 1,000 of those in training.
The flight instructor's chair inside the Dreamliner flight sim. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / NYCAviation.com.
Pilots normally fly for four hours in the simulator and afterwards, trainers will go step-by-step with the pilots using playback from the simulator.
When entering the simulator, the first thing that stands out is the large chair in the middle of everything. The chair appears more at home on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise than the simulator we’re standing in. The chair, affectionately called “Captain Kirk’s Seat”, is where the instructor is direct and manage the simulation along with being able to see the same visualization that the pilots are.
In flight over Japan in the 787 flight simulator. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / NYCAviation.com.
Due to the number of media on the tour the full motion capability was switched off, but that did not stop from making the experience enjoyable. Flight instructor Captain Greg Beard pressed a few buttons on the trainer chair and everyone was whisked away at the speed of light to Narita International Airport in Tokyo. Capt. Beard sat in the co-pilot seat as he smoothly took off the Dreamliner to take a tour around Tokyo.
Being in a few 787 cockpits (not during flight), it is easy to say that the simulator is very accurate to the actual Dreamliner. Beard confirmed this by explaining that all the same software and options on the actual aircraft are in the simulator – actually there are more. The simulator can be programed to have either the GEnx engines or RR Trent 1000 (there are few differences in the flight deck of the two). The simulator can also be used for the future 787-9 model as well.
A view of the HUD (heads up display) while sitting at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / NYCAviation.com.
Although the Boeing 787 is a complex machine, it has been built to make flying as easy as possible. It is not cheap to purchase your own 787 simulators. They are manufactured by Thales, cost about $15-$18million each.
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.