A warm and friendly greeting will be had from staff who will ensure you have a great experience. While we acknowledge the simulator is in the early stages of development, the commitment of the venue to improve the hardware and realism is highly commendable.
737Pro are a relative newcomer to the flight simulation scene, and they join a number of similar B737 simulator operators in the North West UK. We received a warm and friendly welcome by enthusiastic staff as we arrived at their Blackpool Airport venue and we enjoyed listening to how the simulator came to fruition and their plans for the future.
The simulator is an accurate B737 flight deck, with only a few clues as to it purpose as a flight experience machine. The visual display consists of 220 degree wrap around projection which is nicely done, but as with most fixed base simulators, the visuals are not collimated and as such the centre of vision is aligned with the centre of the flightdeck. Collimation is extremely expensive and is only really found on only the most expensive and usually professional flight training simulators. They have special terrain mesh and scenery for most of the UK and airports worth a special mention include Innsbrück, Manchester and London Heathrow.
Pre-recorded ATC background chatter is played in the simulation room and further adding to the realism is the prosim set up that most simulator venues choose to use. This provides a useful simulation interface that controls weather, traffic and simulator functionality. When flying the 737Pro simulator, we felt the control loading was poor (from an airline pilot’s point of view having flown thousands of hours in a B737) and we flew with continual aft pressure at the back of the elevator dead-band to achieve the correct feel. The intercom between pilots is not broadcast to the spectator area at the rear of the simulator, but being a quiet room, we felt this wasn’t too much of an issue.
When talking about and testing the simulated systems, it was great to hear the development plans the business has for the hardware. Coming soon are oxygen masks, circuit breaker panels and further off-the-shelf parts from popular manufacturers such as Flightdeck Solutions, who have recently delivered a very authentic overhead panel. A certain amount of functionality that we would expect as a basic standard wasn’t working at the time, such as control column elevator trim from the co-pilot seat and the autopilot disconnect buttons, but they’re high on the priority list when the simulator finally gets some downtime.
The simulator is located within a popular flying school (Westair) at Blackpool Airport, which has a very busy general aviation scene. We like airport locations as it adds to the excitement and realism of the whole experience, and immerses the customer in the wider world of aviation. We feel the signage could be more prominent for simulator customers, as it wasn’t apparent at first that the simulator venue was housed within Westair. There are also a couple of large Westair hangars along the main road that could lead you to the wrong location. Parking is easy and plentiful.
Once inside there is a large lounge/kitchen area just past reception and a few classrooms for the all important pre-flight briefing to be delivered (custom video also shown as part of the experience). There is plenty of room for spectators, both at the venue and within the simulator, which has an area of airline seats behind the simulator, ensuring everyone is part of the experience. When considering customers with special needs or reduced mobility, the company states they’re happy to talk in advance or even host a pre-visit should it be required to assess any requirements and will try their best to accommodate everyone. However, the size and raised setting of the simulator, plus the amount of steps required to ascend to the upper floor where the simulator is located would be a significant challenge for someone with reduced mobility.
Booking is via the website, email, telephone or even facebook and the staff attempt to keep wait/reply times to a minimum. Flight time equals voucher time meaning you get the full time you paid for, plus it’s been known for the sessions to overrun a little should there be a free session directly afterwards – the emphasis is definitely on maximising the enjoyment of the experience. They have a loyalty scheme in the form of a logbook, which leads to the simulator being hired to the user at a dry (no-instructor) rate once a certain level of competence is achieved and observed. ‘Flights’ are filmed free of charge and customers are encouraged to bring a memory stick (or one can be bought at a very reasonable price) to receive the videos and take them away at the end of the session.
Another point worthy of mention is their Future Pilot scheme aimed at young learners between the ages of twelve and seventeen during school holidays. The course improves teamwork, develops confidence, raises aspirations and teaches other relevant aviation skills/knowledge. It culminates in a full un-aided sector flown by the future pilots while family and friends are invited to spectate. It’s worth mentioning this is heavily subsidised by the venue as part of an investment in the local community youth.
Undoubtedly 737Pro’s strongest area is their staff. We were hosted by the manager, Tom, who could not have been more welcoming and candid about the simulator and the business. He was extremely customer focussed and we have absolutely no doubt that he would ensure a customer has an incredible simulation experience. Amongst the staff are three current airline pilots, which adds not only credibility to the event and simulator, but also ensures realism, which is what most people seek. The business is happy to accommodate requests, receptive to feedback and is constantly striving to improve and develop the simulator and what they offer. We often find a key indicator as to the character of a business is their charitable work. Visits from local <a style="color: #1e73be;Air Cadet, clubs, schools and the Future Pilot scheme show the positive effect the company tries to maintain with the surrounding communities.
A warm and friendly greeting will be had from staff who will ensure you have a great experience. While we acknowledge their Boeing 737 is a relatively new simulator, the commitment of the venue to improve the hardware and realism is highly commendable. We are confident the simulator will be up to speed in no time at all, with some interesting and different functionality to set it apart from the competition. We have no hesitation in recommending the simulator for that incredible flying experience.