Tuesday, 30 August 2011

This is your Captain speaking ....

I reached one of those milestone birthdays back in May - yes, the big Five-Oh.  Hard to believe given my youthful looks!  

Anyway, having arranged helicopter flying lessons for my 30th and 40th birthdays, my Wife surpassed this and helped me realise what has been a lifelong ambition ....

For my 30th birthday my Wife arranged a trial lesson in a Robinson R22 helicopter.  Don't tell her but I hated every second I was off the ground (and some while on the ground)!  It frightened the life out of me, this little two-seater bubble canopy thing - it just didn't feel safe.  So much for being a helicopter pilot.

For my 40th birthday my Wife arranged a trial lesson in a Robinson R44 helicopter!  I should have been honest with her 10 years before!  Nevertheless we went ahead in this four-seat big brother of the R22, with my Sister as passenger (brave soul) .... and I loved it.  A completely different experience.

So for my 50th what would she do - Learjet?  Chinook?!  No, a Boeing 737!!

Boeing 737-200 of Britannia Airways
©1995 Eduard Marmet
OK, it was in fact just a simulator, but it was one of the actual hydraulic motion systems used to train pilots back in the 1970s (and probably beyond).  I didn't take the experience until earlier this month, but what an absolutely fantastic time it was!!

I was introduced to my Co-Pilot for the day, Murray ("as in the mint"), a retired airline pilot with goodness knows how many hours flying 737s.  "Have you any flying experience" he asks, "several hundred hours on 737s" says I "if you count Microsoft Flight Simulator!".  'None' was duly entered on the briefing form!!  Joking aside MS Flight Simulator was a great help as I could easily recognise the instruments on the actual simulator it being of the same vintage (737-200 series) so this saved familiarisation time.

The Real Thing! Just like the Simulator (and MS Flight Sim!)
Early Boeing Cockpit - ©2008 Sol Young
Flying out of Aberdeen Airport using Runway 16 (complete with low flying military aircraft from nearby RAF Leuchars) we then proceeded to work through a number of scenarios with take offs, landings, engine failures, engine fires and deliberate stalls (honest!).

I'm pleased to say that my first landing, although left of centreline, was on the runway and smooth (the passengers would have applauded according to Murray!), I then went on to show this wasn't a fluke, my crosswind take offs and landings were just about where they should have been, turbulence was no problem, taxiing to and from the terminal I avoided any embarrassments, but my first attempt at an aborted take-off was a very hairy ride!  All packed into a 90-minute slot which just flew by (pun intended!).

Many thanks go to my Wife and family for this birthday present - a lifelong ambition realised having missed out on the chance to fly a DC10 flight simulator when in the ATC.

Also a massive recommendation for the team at Real Simulation (www.realsimulation.co.uk) either as an individual or for one of their corporate days.  They also have a Formula One simulator based on a Red Bull chassis - but that's another story!