A Flight in a “Real” 747 Simulator
Today I received a late Christmas present. I redeemed my voucher to fly in the new iPilot B747-400 Simulator at Duesseldorf airport. It’s not a Full-Flight Simulator, like they have at the Lufthansa Flight Training facilities in Frankfurt airport for example. A few years ago I went there to fly in one of their A320 Simulators and it was just a fantastic experience. “Instructed” by a retired Boeing 707/742 Captain, I had to show him how to start the engines on an Airbus A320, haha. These FFS are built by Thales and cost around 20 million Euros (~26.5 mil USD).
In Duesseldorf they have a fix-based installation. The flight deck is modelled very accurately and comes from a company called “Flight Deck Solutions”. They are based in Canada and are specialized in building these Simulators. What I really liked was the accurate depiction of the cockpit. Every switch was authentic and everything from seat to the displays, overhead and middle console was built like the real thing. The Flightsim was running on 3 big screens, set up behind the cockpit windows.
They used Prepar3D as the FS software. This is basically FSX, enhanced and further developed by Lockheed Martin. They bought the source code from MS and develop Prepare3D for Flight Schools and other customers. I didn’t notice much difference to FSX. Sadly they had their software configured very badly. The textures were blurry as hell, the airports were all default and the screens were setup in a weird way so you felt like approaching with a crosswind even though you were coming in straight. It seems their lead programmer should have a look at avsim or other sources to learn how to setup an FS properly.
Another thing that was bothering me was that the overhead panel had a system crash and didn’t work. So we had to fly with everything set by the conncected computer. The tiller on the Capt side was also broken. My F/O was a real F/O. He is currently flying on the A319 for Germanwings. It was really cool to talk with him on a professional level and he said that they usually get people that have no clue of anything. So it was fun to get some confirmation that my extensive “sim-knowledge” is actually sufficient to work together with a real F/O in the flightdeck – at least in this environment. He set the MCP, flaps and operated the gear.
First thing we did was a Take-Off in Duesseldorf, then a traffic pattern, follwed by an approach and landing. I landed the 747 in the Sim so many times that it was really cool to do it on a “real” flightdeck in a Sim. Having that Yoke in front of you, the Thrust Levers to your right and everything in reach is just something that I would like to have in my basement. At a cost of approximately 2 million Euros (2.65 mil Dollars) this sadly will remain a dream. My second wish was to do the same in Dulles airport. So we took of in IAD, did a traffic pattern over Virgina and landed back on 01R. This time with some wind action. Even though the PMDG 747 felt pretty much the same in handling compared to this Sim, it took me a few minutes to learn how to fly this thing with a real Yoke. After I figured that out, it actually was easier to fly her than with my setup at home. The Pitch Trim switches on the Yoke are just so useful, wish I had one of those at home. Lastly we did an approach into Hong Kong at Night (it was Check Lap Kok, not Kai Tak though).
The first landing was not my best. I touched down after the markers, so procedure would have forced me to perform a Go Around. The F/O insisted on landing however and we stopped the 747 just before the threshold. The second landing in Washington was already good and I received praise from the F/O. After the first 2 landings I got used to the “real way” of maneuvring a 747 and greased her onto the runway in Hong Kong.
All in all it was a really cool experience. Even though the overhead was not working and there were some other system bugs and errors and the graphics were a little disappointing, it was awesome to have the feeling of sitting in a real flight deck. Of course it was not like the FFS in Frankfurt, but still I had a great 60 minutes in there.
If you’re interested in the setup, here’s a Blog from Flight Deck Solutions. This entry is about the B747 in DUS: http://flightdecksolutions.blogspot.com/2011/11/fds-b747-fbpt-to-dusseldorf.html
Should you have 2,000,000 Euros lying around and don’t know what to do with it, you can buy yourself a cockpit here: http://www.flightdecksolutions.com/