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 ’œCaptain 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.
Singapore Airlines gave a special tour to invited media guests to their training facility located in Singapore and I felt privileged to be among the group. We were able to experience the flight attendant safety training, cabin crew procedure training and the flight simulators.
The slides are not for fun. This hybrid of Boeing 777 and Airbus A380 is to teach cabin crew how to evacuate an airplane.
We first entered a large room that looked almost like a play ground with slides, but it was all business. This is where cabin crew learn and get re-trained on safety protocols. There were a number of different interior mock ups and the most interesting was the hybrid slide trainer. This was a unique set up with a Boeing 777 in the front and an Airbus A380 in the rear. The aircraft is used to allow flight attendants to practice evacuating passengers and jumping down the slides themselves. Inside the mock up, the interior was made up of earth-toned seats, with half of it being wider than the other half. The emergency doors had LCD screens located in the windows to simulate what might be on the other side (ie fire, debris) and the flight crew must react accordingly. Other mock ups in the facility allow cabin crew to practice opening emergency doors, escape from crew quarters and learn the proper operations on different aircraft.
Instructors are able to set up a number of different scenarios for flight attendant training.
The larger hybrid airline cabin is able to be filled with smoke to simulate an emergency situation (see an example from when I visited AirTran). There is a control panel that lets the instructor set up a scenario and the flight attendants must react accordingly. I was hoping to have an opportunity to take a slide down, but decided on the stairs instead.
The water is calm in this photo, but during training, instructors can make waves in the Singapore Airlines training pool.
After coming down the stairs, we went into the pool training facility, where flight crew are required to practice jumping into the water with their uniforms. The pool is able to simulate waves and rough conditions, providing an additional challenge for the new trainees. Much like the slide trainer, the interior has a full cabin set up, giving as much realism as possible to an actual water landing event.
Singapore Airline's Airbus A380 flight simulator has a Star Trek like command chair for the instructor to create almost any scenario possible.
The training facility also operates seven aircraft simulators that cost between $12million and $30million. Singapore Airlines leases time on the simulators for other airlines as well, except the Airbus A380 since they need all the time on it as possible. The A380 simulator is unsurprisingly big and although it is a massive beast — she flies like a champ. The simulators have full motion giving pilots realistic g-forces during landing, take off and maneuvers. Instructors are able to sit in a command seat behind the pilot and co-pilot to create dangerous situations at airports around the globe. Before pilots take a spin on the larger simulator, they are able to practice the proper procedures on a much more simplistic (and cheaper) Flight Training Device.
New Singapore Girls learn how to work the economy section at the training facility.
Even though safety is the most important aspect of a flight attendants job, a large portion of the facility is set up to teach flight attendants how to take care of their customers. Down a long hallway, there are multiple mock-ups to let new employees learn customer service for economy, business and first class passengers. Interestingly, part of their training includes greeting facility guests with a warm welcome. It is quite impressive to walk by a group of 25+ new flight attendants and have them all welcome you to the training center.
Looks and proper grooming is important to Singapore Airlines. This room, new hires learn how to look professional during long flights in a low-humidity environment.
First impressions are important and Singapore Airlines makes sure their entire flight crew look professional. Even though the male crew won’t be wearing any make-up, they still go through the full training to learn how to keep their skin from getting too dry and how to assist their female co-workers. There is a classroom dedicated to make-up and scents training and another for flight attendants to practice walking properly.
Singapore Airlines is known for their high-end service and it takes quite a bit of work to accomplish. Besides basic training, flight crew are required to return for additional and advanced training. Even though the facility might look like fun and games, everything done there is for either customer service or safety. Both are very important aspects to running a successful airline and it seems to be working quite well for Singapore Airlines.
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.