Wednesday, October 12, 2005

My mate Justin recently used some of his frequent flyer miles to fly a 747 simulator in Hong Kong. Lucky bastard.

After months of anticipation, the time finally came for my flight in a Boeing 747-400 Simulator at Cathay Pacific. This is the same simulator that they train the Cathay pilots on, so everything is 100% authentic. The instruments, switches, pretty much anything in the sim is interchangeable with those in the actual plane, hence the exorbitant cost of one of these things. They are probably even better than the real cockpits, given that area behind where the pilots sit is a spacious instructor's station as opposed to squashy jump seats.

After a pre-flight briefing which consisted of "Make sure you follow the Flight Director" repeated again and again, because the "flight director is your friend, but only if you listen to it...if you don't it will become your worst enemy" (if you don't listen to it the FD will give stronger and stronger indications to get your ass back in line and it will be a lot harder to do so), I hopped into the Captain's seat of the 744 (Simulator 06, rego B-HOR), and after a bit of fiddling with the seat, was all strapped in for the flight. I love the 744 seat. It's adjustable in so many ways a C152 or Tobago seat isn't - there's an adjustment for every which way you can think of, as well as adjustment for the pedals.

We got the plane lined up for takeoff from Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok Airport (VHHH), runway 25L. From memory, V1 was 145kts, Vr 147kts, V2 153kts. So at 147kts, rotated and put the thing at 12.5 degrees pitch up using the AH on the PFD as a reference, up to about 1000ft and then down a bit to 10 degrees pitch up to accelerate to 250kts on climb to 3000ft. Did a big loop round the airport (sortof like a 15nm wide circuit), climbed to 4000ft, set the autopilot and let that do its job. We tried to set off the EGPWS (terrain warning system), but just couldn't get close enough to the ground before we captured the ILS glideslope. Came in for an autoland, autobrakes set on 3, Vref at 146kts at Flaps 30 as we were quite light. Quite smooth, everything done perfectly with two red, two green on the Precision Approach Path Indicator, indicating a perfect glideslope (So it should be for an autoland!). Once the beast touched down, I put on the reverse thrusters on full blast, so we got the thing stopped pretty quickly, given the autobrakes setting.

Now for all the manual landings that I did. Not exactly sure how far off I started, but was at 1000ft and probably a 3 mile final. Since these were hand flown, I had to follow the Flight Director in the PFD, and then at about 3-400ft change my focus from the instruments to the runway. The controls are extremely sensitive. Theres a radar altimeter callout at 1000, 5000, "+100" of the decision height which we set at 300ft, "minimums" at Decision Height, then 100, 50, 40, 30, 20. You have to start flaring at about 50ft, and only for a second or two before letting go. My first landing was pretty good, because I wasn't used to flying following the Flight Director, the minute I changed to visual I realised I was left of the centreline by a bit, but I was all corrected and fine by the time I was at the threshold of 25L.

The second landing was a perfect approach, and a shocker of a landing. I smacked it down hard. So hard the plane bounced up and started flying again. Didn't get it back down until 2/3rds of the runway was gone.

The third time, the approach was a little bit off as I was a bit left and a bit right of centreline, got it straight by short finals, but let the damn thing float halfway down the runway before touching down.

Since my instructor was a top bloke, we went about 15 mins over the allocated time, and he allowed me to do one more landing. And thank goodness, that one was something I was proud of. Great approach and touchdown, if I must say. Worthy of a real landing! Then afterwards, he let me taxi the thing in, it's not easy and a lot different to taxiing a Tobago, given that you have to remember there's like 70m behind you of plane to move. You taxi via a tiller on your left rather than using rudder pedals. Push forward to turn right, pull back to turn left.

I wish there was more time. My instructor had taken in all the approach charts for Sydney (YSSY) too, but we just didn't have the time for it. And there's so many things I want to see in a sim, like stalling, RTO (rejected take-off), TCAS resolution advisories, EGPWS, emergency descent, abrupt movements to stress the airframe etc etc...

All in all, great fun. They gave me a logbook and a silver plated model of a flight simulator. I wanna be a pilot for CX now. They offer a cadet program which they run in Parafield for 60 weeks, which includes time in their awesome Learjet 45, VH-CXJ. I want.

Thanks Justin. But I'm not envious. Not much.

Also, latest flying post here.


At 6:00 pm, Anonymous Justin said...

Well, after I booked the sim flight, I figured out a (sort-of) cost-effective way to have fun in a genuine sim. All it takes, though, is a trip to Long Beach, California. (Well, ok, it's cost effective if you are planning to have a trip in the US anyway.) Alteon Training ( does a sim flight in your choice of a 737NG/717/MD11/MD88 for US$150, a bargain compared to using frequent flyer points. The frequent flyer points I gave up to do that sim thing probably could have gotten me a flight to the US, and I'm more than willing to pay US$150 for the experience. Heck, I'd pay $600 to go on it for 4 times as long! Since 30 mins is way too short on the sim! Cmon Chris, make an excuse to go to the US in the near future!

At 4:14 pm, Blogger Kirrily said...

Yeah, Chris - let's go to California!!!!

At 6:30 pm, Blogger Chris said...

Christ Almighty!!!

Why didn't anyone tell me about this before?

I don't need to be persuaded - this is definitely my next trip.

At 12:29 pm, Blogger Kirrily said...

what about Hawaii????

At 4:38 pm, Blogger Chris said...

I mean, after Hawaii :)


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