Everyone talks about how difficult it is to fly a plane, and after our placement in airline, we’d be happy to agree, having experienced it first-hand!
We were really excited to hear from Lynsey’s manager that she was organising a trip for us to the Flight Simulator, to see some of the pilots in training. Our excitement levels tripled when an email arrived from the pilot who was training on the day of our visit, suggesting that we wear trousers and asking if we had ever been upside-down in an aeroplane!
On the day of the visit, we were pleasantly surprised by how well the simulator resembled a real cockpit, how accurate it’s depictions of various airports were, and how realistic the turbulence felt! Mesmerised by the sheer fact that the pilots seemed to know every single button in the cockpit (of which there were thousands) and baffled by all the numbers they were calling out to one another, you can imagine our amazement when the training pilot started switching off various instruments (simulating a failure) and the pilots were still able to fly and land it smoothly. It got even more exciting when Lynsey was given the choice of whether to increase or decrease the turbulence; it kind of reminded her of a waltzers-style-scream-if-you-want-to-go-faster moment, and as you could imagine, she only kept increasing it! The training which pilots go through on a regular basis is truly extensive, and we caught a glimpse of it…taking off in snow and on a wet runway (which is something the UK-based pilots were excellent at – we can’t imagine why?!), recovering from jet upset (essentially a loss of control – which was the going upside-down part), and even engine failure!
On top of all the watching and learning, they even popped us in the Captain’s seat for 25 minutes each and had us fly over London and its surrounding areas. It’s probably the best sightseeing tour we’ve ever been on, despite the fact that we could barely see anything because we were terrified to take our eyes away from the magenta lines (which indicate the direction of intended travel). Thankfully, the simulator has a pause button, which the trainer ever-so-kindly hit just before our landings, so that we can say we didn’t crash it. What a Gent!
The day was fascinating. It was helped by the fact that the pilots were really friendly and welcoming, and spent time explaining the many things we didn’t understand. We came away from my day at the simulator with a new-found respect for our pilots, and although we have always enjoyed flying, we both now find ourselves acting like 5-year-olds on Christmas Eve whenever we set foot in an aircraft. Also, after seeing first-hand the skills of our pilots we have even more confidence in them and can sleep soundly on the Dreamliner knowing that they are fully prepared to deal with whatever is thrown at them and get us safely to our destination.
Lynsey and Maja (UK&I Commercial Graduates)
Note: Due to security reasons, images of the actual simulator cannot be uploaded, this is an image from a copy of a “simulator of the simulator”.