• Flight Experience Singapore

    Flight Experience Singapore

    By Rohan Nair (27 October 2010)

    The definition of the word 'ecstasy' was not able to substantiate the level of happiness I was in when I heard I would be flying for a full 30 minutes on a full size Boeing 737-800 flight simulator in Singapore. The existence of such bliss was discovered by chance while flipping the pages of a Singapore attractions handbook. Everything was in place and was going according to plan. After a brief exchange of e-mails, I booked a 30 minute slot for me on the 2nd of August, Monday at Flight Experience Singapore. I was very excited which could be attributed to the fact that I was already familiar with the 737NG's systems and my slot was the first in the day. The facility is located at 30 Raffles Avenue, Singapore on the second floor of the Singapore Flyer building. The simulator is a full size, fixed base and stationary simulator that uses FS2004 as the simulation software.

    After about three days of mentally impatient though visually patient waiting after my arrival in Singapore, it was D-day. I woke up in the morning, got ready faster than ever before and quickly brushed through the procedures for the 737NG (which were actually the PMDG flow procedures). My slot was scheduled for 11 AM but I reached at about 10 AM by bus simply to do some sightseeing there to calm my nerves. I was nervous, and I knew it was important to calm down to prevent me from turning the plane into a popcorn machine. Some of the interesting sites included the giant Ferris wheel which takes 30 minutes to complete one full revolution. I had quite a good view of the Marina Bay from the balcony that circled the entire building. I also saw quite a strange looking building that looked like sections of a Rubik's cube only half rotated. By now, the morning sun had calmed by nerves and I felt confident I wouldn't screw up; at least not bad enough to need slings for both my hands.

       

    About 15 to 20 minutes before flight time, I entered the center where I made the payment for my ticket and checked out some of the souvenirs and articles they had. I had also paid for a DVD recording of my flight. They had a pretty good collection of little airplane models, aircraft badges, mugs and the like. They even had a coffee machine but the wild notion that excess caffeine would get me hyper prevented me from turning my head toward it. A briefing table was also visible and they had some cockpit posters for sale too. What's interesting that the ticket was presented in the form of a boarding pass and hey! My name was visible on a flight arrivals/departures board too. Well folks, who could resist taking a shot of that. A few minutes later, the instructor arrives and through a brief conversation I explain to him I am acquainted with this plane's operating procedures already attributed to the fact that I'm a PC-based flight simulator pilot. Apparently the instructor, whose name now evades me, was quite impressed from my talk about my flight simulation and reviewing. I also learn he is a real world ATP for Singapore Airlines. We did perhaps what would be the shortest briefing for the day lasting just a minute. With only thirty minutes at hand, the plan was to takeoff, do some turns, come back for a touch and go, and then make another few turns before a full stop landing.

    Finally, after the instructor set up the simulator, we entered and I found everything so familiar looking. He explains to me that I'll be on the left seat for this flight. After positioning myself in the seat, adjusting it and putting on the one piece headset, he gives me clearance to prepare the plane for takeoff. Just before that, a photo of us is clicked in the cockpit by an attendant. I paid for that too. The plane was positioned at Singapore's Changi airport on some runway I can't recollect. The engines were running and the plane was powered up. The instructor follows along with me as I prepare the overhead panel, followed by the pedestal and radios for takeoff. He had already done the V-speeds on the FMC. I didn't want to use the autopilot on this flight. One last check of vital things, and I advance the throttles to 40% N1 as seen on the EICAS. Everything was stabilized and the instructor presses the TOGA button for me and I keep my hand floating above the throttle levers, following them as they advanced to takeoff power. Keeping my gaze steady out of the window, I give the rudders a light touch to check them out but keep the plane on the centerline.

       

    The plane was fully loaded, I could feel the inertia. As we rolled down the runway:

    Instructor: "80 knots."

    Me: "Cross checked. Thrust set."

    Instructor: "V1"

    My right hand goes off the throttle lever onto the yoke. I begin to really take in the resonances of the force feedback.

    Instructor: "Rotate"

    I make a gentle pull on the yoke and soon, I see the little airplane on the PFD advancing up and I confirm this looking out the window momentarily. I pull back and stabilize the airplane at +15 degrees of pitch. Acceleration soon stops.

    Instructor: "Positive rate."

    Me: "Gear up, please."

    The instructor raises the gear and I can really feel the pressure on the yoke from the plane wanting to pitch down. I counteract with the trim control at my left thumb and the pressure eases.

    Reaching 1,000 AGL:

    Me: "Flaps 1, please."

    Instructor: "Speed checked, Flaps 1."

       

    I lower the nose to 12.5 degree and call out: "Climb thrust." The auto throttle does this by itself and I hear the engines spool down. It's actually a little difficult to hear over the noise cancelling of the one piece headset they give you.

    The instructor dials a heading on the HDG SEL window of the MCP and the FD bars move accordingly. We opt for 230 knots and continue to climb to 5,000 feet. During the process, the instructor clears me to execute the turn. Flaps are retracted completely too. I overshoot the target heading by a few degrees on roll out but get it back on track in a jiffy. Flying level at 5,000 feet, we do a few turns over the city and were flying parallel to Batam and heading straight for Sentosa Island. Interestingly, I went there in the afternoon too. After some time, we decide it's time to do the touch and go. First, the instructor dials 180 in the MCP's speed select window. The plane slows down as we appropriately extend flaps to 5. We turn around to set us up for a left downwind for the same runway we took off from and descend to about 2,500 feet @ 180 knots.

    I confirm that we won't need any auto brakes or speed brakes as it's only a touch and go. The instructor tells me we would be shooting an ILS approach. Pretty soon, we were on a thirty degree offset from the localizer and ready to intercept. While having a casual conversation, the localizer is overshot and then I quickly maneuver the plane back onto track. I had a little trouble in getting the plane stabilized. As the glide slope hit the 'one dot low' mark:

    Me: "Speeds back to 160 knots and flaps 15, please."

    I take care of the speed select window and the instructor lowers the flaps for me. We were still not stabilized and had drifted a little left now. At glide slope capture, we slow to Vref+5 which is 147 knots and lower flaps to 30. The gear is also brought down but by me this time. The GPWS gives out altitude callouts as I still have some trouble keeping the aircraft on the localizer. "100...60...50...40..30...20...10..." I managed to straighten out the aircraft by 100. Though not aligned, it was pointed down the runway. At the threshold, I retard the throttle levers. I flared too much in my attempt to make a smooth landing. The instructor asked me to ease it and I did so, making a soft but firm touchdown. I lower the nose wheel gently onto the runway. The instructor selects flaps 15 as I use the rudders to bring the aircraft perfectly on the center line. The instructor asks me to increase thrust to 60 percent. I do so and once stabilized, I press the TOGA button.

    My hands follow the throttle levers until V1 as called out by the instructor. Fairly quickly, we were airborne and pursued a normal climb at 210 knots to about 3,000 feet. After a series of turns, we were pointed out away from the airport to make some good room to stabilize for a full stop visual landing. As we turn onto final, I reduce speed to 180 knots and lower flaps to 5. Once perfectly lined up, I arm the speed brakes and the instructor sets the auto brakes to 2. Feeling that we were getting closer to start the final descent, I reduce speed to 160 knots and select flaps 15. Soon after, I start descent and reduce speed to 147 knots and lower flaps to 30. This time, the approach and landing was perfect and spot on the centerline.

    Once again making the flare a little too much, I still make a firm touchdown and use full reverse thrust to slow the plane down. Rolling on the runway:

    Instructor: "60 knots."

    Me: "Reverse thrust disengaged." (I idle the engine thrust)

    Me: "50 knots, auto brakes off."

    We exit the runway using a high speed exit at 30 knots. As we exit, I raise the flaps completely and make appropriate adjustments to lighting, the APU and radios. After some taxiing using the tiller, we were parked at the cargo ramp. There, I connect the APU generators to the aircraft's electrical buses and pull and push down the fuel cutoff levers for both engines. A sweet sense of accomplishment and satisfaction envelopes me as I slouch slightly in my seat staring at the instruments. I left the plane in a state for the next 'crew' to take over. I also filled out a logbook entry crediting me with 0.5 hours of simulator flying experience.

    Well, my friends that, that's it. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much I had writing it. If you ever get a chance to sit on a real world simulator, don't waste the opportunity. You're sure to have a pleasant experience. Please feel free to contact me if you have any comments or queries.

    Rohan Nair
    [email protected]


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