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777 Flight Simulator

March 15, 2005 Leave a comment

For our 5th anniversary, we got to experience a Boeing 777 flight simulator – a 777-200 to be specific. We had Captain Ray Roberts as our instructor, who used to land on aircraft carriers among many other things, which we thankfully didn’t have to (or maybe get to) try. But, here is what we did get to do:

  1. Taxi & Takeoff: Lorie backed up from the gate and taxied around Portland, Oregon’s airport (KPDX), making us all a bit nauseous as she tried to follow the yellow line on the “ground”. Everything you see out the front window of the simulator is really a bunch of computer screens connected together, but after a while, you sort of forget that it’s all fake, even though the graphics aren’t that great. During this time, we got to program the flight plan using the different radio towers on our path, so we programmed in one for Battleground and another for Olympia. Of course, we didn’t end up following our flight plan, but at least we had one.
  2. Flight: Soon enough, Lorie took off aiming right at Mt. Hood in the distance. It was a nice takeoff and we set our headings towards Seattle’s airport (KSEA, aka, Sea-Tac). Part way through this flight, I asked if we can jump ahead in time, so Captain Ray told me what buttons to hit and we moved at double speed (a computer trick, just like changing the weather) for a few minutes until we were getting close to Seattle. Unfortunatly, looking out the window at this time didn’t look like we were flying twice as fast, it’s just that Seattle appeared sooner than it would have. We did see the mountains though: Hood, St. Helens, Rainier, and I think I saw Adams in the distance once too. We also saw where our houseboat would be – there wasn’t enough detail for houses, but Lake Union and the Highway 99 bridge were there. The Space Needle looked a little funny.
  3. Landing: Lorie’s approach to Sea-Tac was a little wobbly, but we did a nice touch-and-go. That means we landed, but as soon as our wheels hit, we went back up. We swung around and Lorie landed it at Boeing Field. During all of this, Captain Ray was teaching us about all of the controls, displays, and the computer systems. There are massive numbers of systems and subsystems and redundant backups of everything, and a few knobs and switches for all of them. And the 777 is the most modern and computerized of them all, which means that it’s probably the easiest to fly!
  4. Emergencies: Then it was my turn. I took off from Boeing Field and after getting the hang of it, we simulated the left engine catching fire. No reason to simulate something minor! So we went through the process of putting out the fire, turning off the engine, and making sure everything else was OK. We did all of this while the auto-pilot was in control and we never really even noticed much change because the auto-pilot can compensate for just about anything. I then got to land back at Boeing Field with only the right engine, since the left one was obviously burnt to a crisp. I was pretty wobbly too, probably worse than Lorie, but I finally got it straightened out and made a great landing without any help from Captain Ray; other than flaps and who knows what buttons he was pressing during and after landing it.
  5. Auto-Pilot: The captain then had Lorie press a few buttons on the simulator computer and we were instantly at 10000 feet flying above Seattle. We then got to see how the auto-pilot could compensate for a pilot not paying attention as we tried to force the plane to stall. So we made the plane almost stall, and watched as it tried to make sounds, shake the controls, flash some lights, and finally give up and self correct the problem. I don’t think it (the auto-pilot) called anyone for a replacement pilot, but I bet it could. There isn’t really just one auto-pilot (no inflatable guy that pops up or anything). There are different auto-things for different systems – not that we really figured them all out, but we sure had fun forcing some things to fail and seeing what would happen.  
  6. Weather: Then with a few more clicks by Lorie at the simulator computer, we were instantly flying in the clouds, simulating bad weather. We then completely used the computer to enter the coordinates runway at the airport we were aiming for (KSEA) and a few other details that went over my head. Then, trusting the auto-pilot, we made a perfect landing. We couldn’t even see anything until we were almost touching down on the runway because of the clouds, so it was a good thing that the auto-pilot was in control. We’re pretty sure we’ve been passengers in a plane coming into Seattle in weather like that, so we’ve most likely had the auto-pilot land us before and just didn’t know about it.
  7. Landing & Taxi: After the auto-pilot landing, I got to taxi to the gate. I’m as bad of a driver as Lorie on the ground, but I found it to be much more fun than Lorie. That’s probably because I don’t get motion sickness as easily as Lorie (no, she never got sick). I taxied over to gate N10 and parked it after some weaving around and a rather abrupt stop.

 

It was a great and very interesting experience, even if we did suffer from information overload since it was nonstop and fast paced learning for about two and a half hours. But, we got to sit in real pilot seats, use real controls (foot, steering, throttles, and a bunch of levers, switches, and buttons), read the different instrument displays, program the coordinates, practice take-offs, landings, flying, emergencies, and even turn on and off the fasten seatbelt sign. However, if you are ever a passenger when Lorie and I are flying, keep your seatbelts fastened tight and remember where those emergency exits are!

 

Photos are at: http://spaces.msn.com/members/grothadventures/PersonalSpace.aspx?_c01_photoalbum=showdefault&_c=photoalbum (it’s the “777 Flight Simulator” photo album)

Zero Gravity Experience – Parabolic Flights

March 8, 2005 Leave a comment
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