Ascent Aviation is an impressive venue to what is an extremely professional and well-run simulator centre. Their current B737 simulator has recently been joined by their new A320.
Ascent Aviation is a relatively new flight simulation venue in the Glasgow area. We received a warm, friendly and professional welcome from the owner, at their modern and smart premises (more about that later), and we spent a considerable amount of time chatting about the owner’s background, how the simulator came to fruition and about his exciting plans for the year.
Since our review in January 2020 an A320 has been added, which we look forward to seeing in a follow-up visit.
The simulator is an accurate B737 Next Generation flight deck, with only a few clues as to it purpose as a flight experience machine. The visual display consists of a high definition 220 degree wrap around projection system with no signs of overlap, blank spots or gaps. The visuals are not collimated and as such the centre of vision is aligned with the centre of the flight deck. Collimation is extremely expensive and is only really found on only the most expensive and usually professional flight training simulators. The weather functionality was excellent and the terrain/landscape very detailed, with moving vehicles along the roads and other air traffic. The only other time we have seen this level of detail is at Simfest, which we openly regard as the gold standard in flight simulation. We visited Heathrow, and realising we wanted to further push the visual system, transferred to Innsbruck, where the scenery appeared as if it were real. Despite this praise for the current visual display, the business has three new 4K HD projectors on the way and will have these up-and-running in the next few months – this will be incredible and will give Simfest a run for their money!
The flight controls were appropriately weighted and all switches were simulated correctly and accurately. This is largely down to the simulator owner being a B737 pilot himself – he is his own worst enemy when it comes to fault finding and perfectionism! Of particular note was the realism of the stall warning system and aircraft behaviour. I am an ex-B737 pilot and I was impressed with the accuracy of how the system was modelled and how the aircraft behaved. The simulator is full of real aircraft parts, and where these aren’t available, the most realistic ones on the market are sourced from a professional aircraft simulator parts manufacturer in Poland. The simulator can also be configured quickly and easily into a B737 classic aircraft flight deck layout.
Every flight deck function is simulated, with further enhancements carried out whenever the simulator has any downtime. All simulator functions be controlled from the instructor station and in the aircraft. In the days following our visit, we received a video from Ascent Aviation showcasing the operation of the air conditioning packs which have just been upgraded. Of particular note, we liked the oxygen system, which is an accurate working simulation of the EROS masks found on B737s and also the intercom system, where no expense has been spared in providing real aviation headsets. The simulator has SimBrief and Navigraph subscriptions (perfect for the more ‘enthusiastic’ customer) and it is possible to connect the simulator to the virtual air traffic control network, VATSIM.
The simulator is located in a sparsely populated office block in Paisley, only a few minutes drive by taxi from Glasgow Airport. There is plentiful well lit on-street parking outside the venue and the signage is clear and prominent for simulator customers. The venue is situated on the first floor of the building and is accessed by voice entry and then up some stairs – there is no lift available.
The venue really comes into its own once inside. It has modern, appropriate and tasteful aviation décor and feels new and well appointed. There is a large reception and lounge area creating a very professional atmosphere, where there is a warm welcome, computer check in, a large TV displaying simulator information and comfy chairs. The attention to detail is continued throughout the premises which are accessed off the main ‘runway’, with guidance to the facilities, kitchen, simulator and briefing rooms via yellow taxiway centrelines – a nice touch for those of us who are dedicated aviation enthusiasts. Reception is constantly manned whenever the centre is open and customers and spectators are made to feel welcome and offered refreshments. There is room for spectators in the simulator with two spare seats, and the TV in reception can also broadcast footage from inside the simulator to a wider audience.
Sessions begin in reception, where the instructor will be waiting, and then customers are led to a well-appointed and comfortable briefing/conference room, before being taken into the simulator for the flight.
When considering customers with special needs or reduced mobility, the business owner acknowledges that not having a lift and being situated on the first floor does pose a challenge, but he is happy to talk in advance or even host a pre-visit to assess any requirements. Once upstairs, the rest of the venue is accessible, including simulator entry and access to facilities. The business owner was very keen for the situation not to deter any customers, and would do all he can to assist and arrange any help required to accommodate everyone.
Booking is via the website, email, or telephone. Their website is interactive, media heavy and informative, but we’ve been told there’s a new, even better one shortly about to be released. Flight time equals voucher time meaning you get the full time you paid for. The venue is extremely popular and as a result is very busy. However, a generous flex of 30 mins between simulator sessions is factored, ensuring customer value for money and a professional experience. This is something a lot of venues do not do, with rostering of sessions often lined up right after the previous, causing potential for delays and waiting times. This flex time also allows for technical issues to be solved ASAP and not deter from the next flight experience. After booking, each customer is sent a flight voucher in the form of a boarding pass (nice little touch), and everyone is given a personalised certificate on completion of their session; further adding to the tangibility of the product as a gift and sense of value for money.
Worthy of mention are the additional services offered by Ascent Aviation. Children’s parties are encouraged and fully catered for, plus ground school days and airline preparation sessions. The ground school days are full day events including refreshments and cover SOPs, CRM and other technical aspects of commercial aviation. The airline prep sessions boast a 93% employment success rate and include in depth briefings and personal mentorship after the session.
Despite the demands placed upon the owner’s time (largely due to the popularity of the venue), David made us feel welcome and was easily able to demonstrate where he had focused much of his attention in ensuring his venue offers the best experience. David is an airline pilot himself, as are nearly all his instructors, who wear either airline uniform or an Ascent Aviation branded uniform. This adds not only credibility to the event and simulator, but also ensures realism, which is what most people seek.
We would like to comment on the ethical and charitable nature of the Ascent Aviation. Despite a huge talent for both business and flight simulation , David has created a fantastic business which has been designed to grow and develop, in particular with his re-investment in staff through an Air Transport Pilot Licence scholarship scheme. This is designed to help those without the financial means, but identified as talented and capable of achieving their pilot qualifications and gain employment with an airline. As recognition for all the hard work and ethical nature, Ascent Aviation won Best Training and Education Business Award in 2019.
In the coming year an exciting new project involving a pair of F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter simulators will be fully realised and we’re looking forward to revisiting when they are up and running to see how well they have integrated these machines. It’s a departure from their core simulator business to date, but we have no doubt that the perfectionist and driven nature of David will see a successful addition to their fleet.
Ascent Aviation has an impressive venue entrance to what is an extremely professional and well-run simulator centre. Their current B737 simulator will soon be joined by an exciting new project. Being such a busy venue is clue enough as to the quality of Ascent Aviation’s business and product and we have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this venue and simulator for that incredible flying experience.
We always welcome updates from simulator businesses we have visited and reviewed. Since our visit, Ascent aviation have been busy and let us know that they have installed the following changes: