Last week, without any fanfare, United Airlines updated its app. No big deal, right? Well this new update includes a flight simulator game! We played it. And while it’s no Microsoft Flight Simulator, for an app-within-an-app it’s pretty great.
Once you get your app updated, you hit the “More” button on the bottom tab, go to the Game Center at the bottom of the “For your flight” section … and voila there it is, sitting next to Sudoku.
The game puts you in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner in the skies above San Francisco — the only plane and setting the game offers (for now). But the terrain graphics are solid and the aircraft model itself looks great. The game starts with a set of tutorials, which get you used to the controls. You pitch and roll by tilting and angling your phone. As the tutorials progress you can take control of the throttle, flaps, and landing gear as well.
All of the simulations are landings, but the variety of approaches, times of day, and weather conditions including wind and fog provide some variety. The default view is from inside the cockpit through a HUD, though you can also station yourself outside the plane.
Being an AvGeek since I could walk, and currently a private pilot, I have always wondered if I could fly a real airliner. I always felt confident that I could, but that little part of me wondered if there truly was anything special I lacked; could I safely land one if I had to? I’m sure many of you have thought about needing to take the controls of an airliner to save the day and I wanted to put my skills to the test. Of course, not in a way that would actually put people in harm’s way.
I recently decided to make the journey from Boston (BOS) to Atlanta (ATL), where I thought I could test out my skills. The quick flight of two-and-a-half hours (depending on winds and approach) from BOS into ATL passed very quickly. My son and I arrived in Atlanta just as dusk approached. Our first stop was checking into the Renaissance Hotel. We booked the “Aviator’s Package” — yes, an AvGeek’s dream hotel. They handed us a cool bag with a bunch of airplane goodies as well as passes to the Delta Flight Museum. They then directed us to our room on the 10th floor corner, which overlooked the approach end of 26R and the Delta maintenance parking area.
A Delta Air Lines Boeing 737-200 – Photo: Aero Icarus | FlickrCC
Eating dinner, courtesy of room service, out on the balcony listening to the hum of jet engines, jumping up to snap pictures of the next beautiful airplane either landing or departing, and just overall enjoying the ATL evening activity, dusk turned into night and the bustle continued. The tower was lit in a really cool blue/green color and the sea of airplane navigation lights was like staring into the night sky looking at stars.
Flight deck looks so realistic! – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz | AirlineReporter
There are few things out there that given the chance to try for myself, I’ll jump at the opportunity. An hour in a level D Boeing 787 simulator is one of those things. In November 2015, Aeromexico cut the ribbon on its brand new 787 simulator, and last week it invited me down to Mexico City to experience it firsthand.
Level D means the simulator is as complex and realistic as it gets. Pilots are able to transition from other aircraft types such as the 737 over to the 787 and earn their type rating on these machines. Before I had my time in the right seat of the simulator, I’d have to sit in row 25 of a 737 to get down to Mexico City.
Between the extremely limited simulator availability and my little remaining vacation time (I used two of my three weeks for the year in March on a trip to Japan and regret nothing), I had to make the trip as short as possible. After much debate, I settled on taking a 9am flight out of New York JFK down to Mexico City, hit the sim, and then take the 1:20am flight back home the next day to get back to work.
FlightSafety Simulator – Photo: FlightSafety International Inc
I first flew in a Bombardier Q400 Dash 8 as a passenger in October 2015 and, less than a year later, I got to co-pilot one! Well, not exactly… Not being a qualified pilot, I am unlikely to fly one any time soon. However, that did not prevent me from experiencing the next best thing: a ride in FlightSafety’s multimillion-dollar Dash 8 simulator, one of which is housed in the US aviation training company’s UK base at Farnborough Airport in Hampshire.
Our ride: Q400 Dash 8 – Photo: Alastair Long
Sales Manager Cristina Rodriguez, Dash 8 Program Manager (and examiner) Michà¨le Rodrigues, and Q400 Simulator Flight Instructor Bill Grevaux recently welcomed me to join them in the aircraft-type simulator. How could I refuse?
The HUD on Alaska Airlines’ newest flight simulator. Notice Mount Rainier off in the distance on the left.
When Alaska Airlines recently reached out to me, asking if I would like some time in their brand-spanking-new Boeing 737-800 flight simulator, I didn’t know if I should reply with just “yes,” or “hell yes.” (I actually think I went for the latter).
The simulator was so new that it hasn’t been added to Alaska’s training schedule (that will start next week). That was a huge benefit, because it allowed me to experience the simulator for over an hour. I have had the opportunity to be in six other simulators, but typically they are in high demand, so the max time in one is about 15-20 minutes. I was excited to give this one a full-on ride.
Taxiing at Seattle Tacoma International Airport. The attention to detail was amazing.
Captain Burton, our instructor Dave, PR guru Halley and I had a great time (I felt special that I was given the Captain’s seat). We flew by downtown Seattle, made a difficult approach into Juneau, completed a foggy aborted landing, and more. The only thing Captain Burton wouldn’t let us do is a barrel roll — that’s okay, but I had to ask.