Flying a plane on your PC? No problem. Piloting one in a genuine flight simulator? That’s trickier. As for taking a real jet up into the sky: we’ll leave that to the professionals. Getting to grips with a simulator, as I recently did, is challenging enough!
Christian (of SWISS Social Media Marketing) and I (Intern Online & Social Media Marketing at SWISS) recently had the chance to try out Swiss AviationTraining’s new BAe 146/Avro RJ simulator. Our training organisation had just taken delivery of the device, after it was carefully transported to Zurich in pieces and reassembled at SAT’s facilities.
It was a weird sight that met us when we walked into the cavernous and dimly-lit SAT centre’s simulator hall. Our simulator, with its strange and almost extra-terrestrial lines, was already in full operation, hydraulics hissing, bucking to and fro. With its wild and jerky movements, we assumed it must be in the hands of some raw recruit – and realised immediately that it would soon be equally so with us at the controls!
Once the simulator had been brought to a standstill, its connecting walkway extended and clicked into place and the door was opened. We stepped across, and I got my first-ever look inside an aircraft cockpit. Switches, lights and buttons: wall to wall and across the ceiling, too. I couldn’t even have started the engines if it hadn’t been for Markus Juchli, Commander and Deputy Postholder Crew Training, who was waiting for us within.
After our short introductions, it was straight down to business with a briefing about safety on board. Christian went first in the commander’s seat, and promptly chose one of the toughest airports to take off or land at: London City. The “weather” was favourable, though, and Christian managed a good departure. After a quick turn above the UK capital, he brought us in to land. It wasn’t exactly a soft one; in fact, the aircraft probably wouldn’t have survived. But it was at least great fun, judging by the smile on Christian’s face.
My turn now. Like Christian, I was given a quick introduction (I’d rather not call it a “crash course”) by Captain Juchli to the displays, buttons and lights, of which I probably understood about half. I chose Zurich for my departure. But I did go for bad weather: I wanted my challenge as well! So there was thick fog at ZRH, and visibility of just 200 metres. I got my baby airborne, too. And after a brief flight over the city of Zurich, I’d almost forgotten where I was: a simulator’s movements and displays are so realistic (as, of course, they need to be).
Now it was time to land. I was well on track to start with; but I lost the perfect approach somewhere along the way, and my last-moment correction got us just about down on the runway for a bit of a bumpy landing. Our passengers wouldn’t have enjoyed it much; but for Christian and me, it was a truly amazing experience.
Anyone can book a session in a Swiss AviationTraining simulator. For further information click here.