Flying Boeing 747 Simulator
When I was looking for a couchsurfing host in Sydney, I checked out the Pilot group on there and found Rod, who not only agreed to host me, but also invited me to tag along for some fun in a 747 simulator on Saturday morning. After flying Continental Level D Boeing 737 sim and a home-made Boeing 727 simulator in Puerto Rico, how could I refuse that offer?
Rod used to work for a guy who owns a successful truck supplies store and is also a pilot. At one point, he decided to build a 747 simulator and Rod helped him out to get that working. It is actually an amazing project - they designed and built the whole thing, including putting it on a motion platform from Frasca so that it looks and feels almost like a Level D sim. Add to that the fact that most controls and indicators are working as well, albeit running some very old software written in the 90s, and it was a thing of beauty. Currently, new software is being written that will allow for all buttons, selectors, instruments, etc to be functional, down to each of the circuit breakers… Total awesomeness!
Rod, his friend John, and I got to the truck store early in the morning, fueled up on coffee at the shop across the road (another useless fact - espresso here goes by 'Short Black'), and fired up the sim. With about dozen computers and controllers running this beast, one would need a checklist just to start it up! Inside, just like the real sim, there was an 'instructor' station behind the two crew seats. They even had the actual United Airlines 747 flight manual in the cockpit (which seemed as big as the 747 itself).
John flew the first leg with me performing the first officer duties. Then it was time for me to get a crack at it. Unlike the V1-cut I had to deal with in the 737 sim, my first 747 takeoff (that just sounds awesome by itself) was relatively smooth and I even remembered to call out a few things on departure. Next, the autopilot handled the job of getting us to our intended destination quite well, although there was a noticeable wing walk going on for some reason (they are still debugging that one). The landing was not quite as good. While I hand flew the approach pretty well, I was just a bit right of the runway on final and once I tried to correct that, the whole thing went down the drain - strangely, the 747 does not respond quite the same to control inputs as a 172. Go figure. I was still able to land the beast, but it was not quite down the centerline. Rod decided to up the challenge after that and set me up on the 8 mile final on the old 'checkerboard' approach into Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong. They whole idea of the approach is that you fly it towards the hill with a checkerboard pattern drawn on one side and just before crashing into the hill, make a 90 degree right turn and land immediately. All amidst the city skyscrapers! This was one of the approaches that used to separate real men from the boys up until it was discontinued a few years ago. Needless to say, I failed miserably. While I was able to hold it together until the checker board, I got very unstable on the turn to final and had to call for the missed approach on both times, barely escaping the stick shaker on the first and activating it on the second one. To heck with the approaches, can you believe they actually have the stick shaker operating in a home-built sim??? What a fun couchsuring experience!