Do you remember the feeling you had when you first took control of a car, during a driving lesson? For most people this would have been in a real car, on a real road of some kind. It’s quite a frightening experience and you notice yourself gripping tightly to the steering wheel and feeling rather tense. Over time we learn to relax and enjoy the experience of being in control of a well engineered machine. For people aspiring to be pilots, develop their skills, or for those just wanting to experience being in control of a large aeroplane, there is a safer option available, the flight simulator. This allows the novice to take to the controls with peace of mind, as well as providing the opportunity for a qualified pilot to develop and hone skills already acquired.
Most flight simulators are custom built for the job, with cutting edge visual display systems which mimic the experience of flight and add in some sensation of movement. Interestingly, it is the visual information which principally allows the brain to experience movement, rather than the actual movement of the cockpit itself, but most simulators will include some element of movement or vibration to add to the information that the brain is processing. In some cases the cockpit of a retired plane can be reverse engineered to become a flight simulator, again with high quality visual displays providing a truly realistic and believable experience for the novice or experienced pilot.
The fantastic thing about a flight simulator is that it will allow you, as the pilot, to take the controls and fly anywhere in the world. So the amazing experience of landing at one of the most challenging airports of the world can be yours for the asking. You can find out what it is like to land at one of the shortest commercial runways in the world, such as the Saba International Airport in St Maarten, bank through the mountains to Toncontin Airport in Honduras, tackle the runway of Wellington, New Zealand, which appears to have sea at either end, leaving little margin for error. At one time Kai Tak at Hong Kong was seen as ‘quite exciting’ as the planes passed by the windows of tall buildings, a scene much beloved of film and documentary makers, making for an exciting flight simulation experience. Or maybe you would like to see what it is like to land at one of the most challenging airports of all, Paro in the Himalayan Mountains, where few pilots are qualified to land?
Another great experience is to recreate a challenging landing carried out in real time by a qualified pilot. Many of us have seen and marvelled at the film ‘Sully’, but would we be able to undertake his memorable and life saving response to bird strike? With a flight simulator which has been properly programmed such as ours, it is possible to do just this and see just what an amazing feat of skill and experience it actually was.