Old Oct 4, 15, 11:44 am
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Kent, UK
Programs: BA Gold, SPG Platinum, Marriott Platinum, Hilton Diamond
Posts: 3,810
Firstly let me say thank you to KARFA for organising everything and for 'A' and 'P' for making the evening a truly superb experience. I cannot recommend the experience enough and I'll definitely be doing it again.

We started off by meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn and then walked down to the security office to meet our BA Global Learning Academy contact and collect our security passes. We then made our way into the engineering base for BA.

The simulators had recently been re-located from Cranebank to a new facility (inside an old building) at the engineering base. The facility itself is hugely impressive. There is a row of simulators stretching almost as far as the eye can see. BA have everything here including the latest aircraft such as the 787 and the A380. There are also simulators for older aircraft and even those that BA do not fly anymore, such as the 757.

Walking to collect our security passes we saw this, the aircraft type that we'd be 'flying' tonight

Entering the engineering base

Count the simulators!

A 787 simulator in action

We made our way upstairs to the mezzanine level in order to 'board' the simulators that we'd be using tonight. The group was split into two. The first group of three had previous experience whereas the group of four of which I was a part of, had absolutely none! The experienced guys went off with Senior First Officer 'P' and we went off with our BA contact.

I admit to feeling quite nervous and not fully knowing what to expect. However our contact 'A' was beyond superb. He started off by explaining the fire alarm and how to exit the simulator should it go off. Then we boarded and 'A' set up the simulator.

Simulators in a row

Simulators in a row

Our simulator, number 4

Setting everything up

This is what the screens look like with no graphics

Once powered up it all looked very real. The graphics were quite amazing. There were even cars driving on the roads around Heathrow and aircraft parked at T5 and T3 in their expected positions (QF A380 on it's normal gate at T3 for example). The graphics didn't move as you did so it truly looked like you were looking off into the distance.

We then had a pre-flight briefing. 'A' explained everything really well. He took us through the basics, some of the panels in the cockpit and how the controls work. It was then time for someone to have a go. GDOCP was first up. 'A' started with some basics such as the rudder. We learned when air is moving over the wings on the ground (take off and landing) the aircraft is directed using the rudder, not the yoke (which only works in the air). He then practiced some braking and the simulator tipped forward quite dramatically. It's very important to be strapped in!

We have a runway, the southern runway at LHR as it happens, facing towards T5. Pre-flight briefing.

A view of the cockpit panels and screens. The main panels, throttles, brakes and tyres (lower screen), engine status (centre screen), landing gear and the auto pilot controls above.

First officer matthandy in the hot seat.

Getting ready to go, with GDOCP in the FO's seat

The first exercise was to take off, do a few turns and then land. We each took turns. What surprised me when it was my turn is that it really is very much like a computer game. I did not look outside at all and focussed only on the flight display screen in front of me. The aim of the game was to keep the white square lined up on the magenta lines (the flight director). Basically, the computer was telling me where to put the aircraft (programmed by 'A').

The aircraft was easy enough to fly if trimmed well but very heavy otherwise. My landing was, er, ok. It was on the centre line at least but my approach was a little high. The main gear was put down quite hard on the runway and the nose gear took some time to come down. What you have to fight against is the urge to actually force the nose down and land it into the runway as opposed to drifting down. 'A' proclaimed that he was very impressed as most first timers end up on the grass. It should be pointed out though that we used the auto-throttles and 'A' controlled them at 100ft. I tried this manually and found it much more difficult but still got us down. In comparison, take off is extremely easy!

I should say that I was a bit worried about how violent the simulator would be. It was certainly unforgiving in terms of heavy landings but not as bad as I had thought. Just don't ask for the 'severe' setting in terms of turbulence!

Let's push those throttles

My turn - 'A' giving me instruction - I was quite nervous
("it's not real, it's not real")

Banking to the right

Time for FastTrak2Elite to have a go

On the approach - it looks pretty real doesn't it?

Jaboi's turn

The other group's simulator - must be heavy braking - you can see why you need to strap in!

After we had all had a turn at take-off, doing a circuit and then landing 'A' showed us the auto land function. It was amazing. Basically, the computer is able to land it perfectly, even in fog. It controlled everything, the throttles, the yoke, the brakes etc.

It was then time for a break, we'd been going for a couple of hours. We met up with the other guys, swapped a few stories, had a quick drink (non-alcoholic of course) and then got straight back into it.

We returned to the simulator to practice landings. The simulator has a handy feature that will allow you start from the same position each time, just press the appropriate button and it will reset itself and sort everything out.

Another landing from me, better this time


Despite the hands, I was being praised

JagBoi's turn again

Some of the simulator controls

We spent the last 30 minutes or so doing quick landings. I had literally 5 minutes left and managed a near perfect approach and touch down. Pressure must help I guess.

And then that was it, our four hours was over. Phew, what an exhilarating experience! On the way out one of the kind engineers allowed us to take a peak at the A380 simulator. It was extremely impressive. Maybe we should look at doing that one next year

The A380 simulator

The A380 cockpit

In summary it was an amazing, exhausting, immersive experience that I'm keen to repeat. Roll on next year.

Last edited by matthandy; Oct 4, 15 at 3:00 pm
matthandy is offline  
Reply With Quote