Categories
Blog Posts

Preparing for a Simulator Session – Advanced

innsbruck
Alexis

Alexis

Preparing for a Simulator Session – Advanced

This follows on from our recent article about “Preparing for a Simulator Session – Novice” which can be found here simulatorreview.com/preparing-for-a-simulator-session-novice/

If you have been to a simulator venue a few times, and have some experience (including using home simulation), this article is for you and will help to get the most out of your venue visit.

Introduction

We recognise that simulator time can be expensive, so it is important to ensure you extract the maximum value for your session. If you have a reasonable amount of experience on simulators and some experience on a flight simulator at home you probably don’t need too much time being instructed on how to go up, down, left and right. But what are the things you can do during your session which will really provide a challenging and rewarding visit? Hopefully this article will help with some suggestions.

Preparation at Home

Some preparation at home will really help maximise the value of your session. You may already be familiar with some basic flight simulation tools such as Navigraph for charts and simBrief for flight planning. If you have a Navigraph subscription and have it on your own tablet, then it is going to be a great help during your session. Most venues have access to some kind of chart provider so don’t feel you need to bring something yourself, but as always, it is easier to use your own tablet and use a chart you are familiar with if possible.

simBrief
Navigraph

If there are things you don’t understand with regard to charts, or anything else of course, don’t be afraid to ask the instructor.  It may be worth you noting down some of your questions just so you have them to hand on the day.  Most instructors will have time to go through a few things before or after your session.  We always look for how closely venues plan their sessions when we visit for our blue pin reviews for reasons such as this.

If there are specific areas or airports you want to fly to then try to make contact before your session.  They may be able to reassure you that they already have good scenery for that area, or they may be open to getting some if required.  If you are keen to do a flight on VATSIM do ask whether they are connected and familiar.  We will be publishing and article and releasing a podcast soon with more information on VATSIM – keep an eye out for that!

You can also let the venue know what your level of experience is to allow them to best tailor your session – there may be no point giving you the 15 minute briefing on the basics of flying if you have hundreds of hours on a home simulator and/or a PPL for example.

If you are going to try a simulator for an aircraft type you may want to do a little research to get some familiarity with the instrument layout and how it flies. For example, the vast majority of my experience is on a B737 simulator, so if I booked some time at one of the A320 simulation venues on our directory I would try and find some guides on the A320 or videos on YouTube. There is no need for you to turn up and be an expert on the aircraft type, but it helps if you have a little bit of understanding which you can build on when you are there.  Regardless of whether you are familiar with the aircraft type, the instructor will go through any characteristics of their specific simulator.

What do you want to do?

Have a think about what you want to do on the day.  Your instructor may be able to come up with some challenges as well for you, but if there are things you want to try let them know.  Think about things that you can’t do at home but can do on the simulator you are visiting.

One idea is to try some challenging approaches.  Some of my favourites in Europe are:

  • Calvi St Catherine (LFKC/CLY) – circling approach to runway 36
  • Chambery (LFLB/CMF) – visual approach to runway 36
  • Samos (LGSM/SMI) – VOR/DME approach followed by a circling manoeuvre to land on runway 09
  • Madeira Funchal (LPMA/FNC) – VOR approach followed by a visual segment to runway 05
  • Innsbruck LOWI/INN – approaching from either direction
  • Lugano (LSZA/LUG) – circling approach to runway 19
  • Gibraltar (LXGB/GIB) – approach to runway 09
Can you land at Gibraltar?

Further afield have a look at some of these:

  • Toncontín (MHTG/TGU) – RNAV approach to runway 02
  • Queenstown (NZQN/ZQN)
  • Cochabamba (SLCB/CBB) – VOR approach to runway 14
  • Hong Kong Kai Tak (VHKT) – IGS approach to runway 13, now closed but simulators often have this available
  • Paro Bhutan (VQPR/PBH)
  • Washington National (KDCA/DCA) – river visual approach to runway 19
  • JFK (KJFK/JFK) –  parkway visual approach to runway 13L (aka Canarsie Approach)
747 in to Innsbruck, only for the sim…and the brave!

If you want to try any of these and have a long enough session, try and incorporate them in to a full flight.  Some examples of short flights might be Munich to Innsbruck, or Nice to Calvi.

A full flight is a great idea if you if you have a long enough session.  Ideally not something too long, but flights of say 100-200nm will be busy enough that you will always be doing something, with perhaps 5 minutes during the cruise to catch your breath or read the newspaper for a more authentic experience!   Also, make use of your instructor – if you are used to flying on your own at home and doing everything yourself, try working as multi-crew, with you as the pilot flying and your instructor fulfilling the pilot monitoring role.  Even better, come with a fellow simulator enthusiast and share the roles between you.  This has the added benefit of spreading the cost between two, you both gain some experience and most venues will be more than happy to accommodate this.

As well as different types of approaches, another variable to challenge you may be varying the weather conditions.  How about trying crosswind take-offs and landings or low visibility operations?  Most simulator venues in the Simulator Review directory have a live weather feed, but they also have the ability to change to any user desired conditions or a specific day and time in the past – perhaps you want to try a landing on a day a storm was at your local airport and you saw some impressive looking videos on YouTube.  Here is a link to a day in early 2020 when one of our own team members was battling with Storm Ciara (link).  Remember that venue will usually have the ability to quickly reposition you on various points on final approach, so you can always have multiple attempts by repositioning to a 4nm final approach and keep trying to improve your technique and skill level.  Your instructor will have plenty of tips and they will give you a lot of useful information on how to deal with any challenging conditions.

All set up for the approach at Heathrow

Lastly, how about failures?  Try the usual things like an engine failure during take-off followed by an airborne return to the airport with a one engine landing.  The venue will most likely be able to simulate any failure, so don’t be afraid to ask for something, or let your instructor make suggestions.  Try working through the failure or emergency situation by using the quick reference handbook (QRH) and onboard aircraft systems.  You can find copies of these online and the venue should have one within the simulator.

What to can you do in the time you have purchased?

Your choice of things to do when you visit is really going to be determined by the amount of time you have.  Generally, for an advanced simulator enthusiast we would recommend sessions of 1 hour at a minimum, and ideally 2 hours.  With 2 hours you could easily try a few take-offs and landings in the first hour at a few different places, and then do a short gate to gate flight in the second hour.  Ensure you don’t have too much planned though.  A 1 hour flight would involve 20-25 minutes of setting up and taxying followed by a 30-35 minute flight, such as London to Manchester, New York to Washington DC or Bahrain to Doha.

Summary

In summary, remember that your session should be enjoyable above everything else.  Your instructor will want to ensure you are challenged but not frustrated.  Have some suggestions for things you want to try – and hopefully this article will have given you some food for thought and new ideas.  However, don’t worry about having a plan for every moment of your session.  If you have a few ideas the instructor will be able to build around them.  Do let your instructor know what your experience is as you don’t want to waste precious time in the simulator re-learning the basics if you are already familiar with them.

Lastly, take advantage of the simulator.  Try things you can’t do at home with your pc flight simulator to ensure you get the most value from your session.

After your session, if you like the simulator and want to go back again, ask about whether they have any returning customer offers or a frequent flyers club.  Some venues have schemes like this, and you can get significant discounts on the prices for future visits.

Ready for takeoff at Manchester.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
Categories
Blog Posts

Worldflight

World Flight Route 2020
Alexis

Alexis

Worldflight

Worldflight provides the flight sim community an opportunity to come together and raise funds for many worthy causes. Alexis takes us through what Worldflight involves and his extensive experience over the years.

We are drawing near to probably the biggest virtual event in flight simulation – Worldflight.  This event takes place every year in early November. 

The event can trace its humble roots back to the UK and the year 2000 with the concept of flying around the virtual world in order to raise money for charity.  In 2001 the organisation was taken over by the lead team, Qantas 25, based in Sydney, Australia.  Despite very little promotion, a few years later the event gained traction and popularity with more simulators around the world joining the annual event.  Since its inception, the event has grown and grown involving more and more simulators and can now boast being considered an official VATSIM event.   

The event typically involves 10 -12 official teams associated with dedicated fixed base simulator venues.  Many more join in from other non-linked fixed base simulators and even participants from their home flight simulators get involved hugely increasing the level of participation.  The event is an intensive week long, 24 hours a day, round the clock, sprint starting and ending in Sydney, with forty odd sectors of flying around the World in between.

2020 route map for Worldflight

A multitude of teams from all around the world take part.  In the UK, official teams for 2020 include our friends at Simfest and Jet Sim School (see our featured reviews here https://simulatorreview.com/simfest/ and https://simulatorreview.com/jet-sim-school/), as well as Velocity Flight Training near Gloucester.

Worldflight takes place within the VATSIM virtual ATC network.  Teams of volunteer VATSIM controllers provide full ATC coverage throughout the week.  With so many simulators heading along exactly the same route at the same time, it can be very busy and delays along the routes are commonplace – when completing the fuel planning phase, participants would be wise to add a little extra contingency just to cover that! Below is a video illustrating how busy the airspace does get during Worldflight.

Each official team has around 10-20 virtual pilots involved and they are ‘rostered’ to cover all the flights during the week.  For those teams it is a test of bringing all the elements of rostering, flight planning, multi crew operations, time keeping, efficient turnarounds, and ATC radio procedures with VATSIM.  Flying with someone you have never flown with before at 2am with little sleep into a busy airport and potentially sub-optimal Air Traffic Control is a true test of any virtual pilot’s skills and a fantastic insight into the world of a real airline pilot.  We always aim to find the highest levels of realism at Simulator Review and this event is about as close as it gets!

The event is done for charity, and as an example Simfest in 2019 raised juts over £43,000.  Most teams also live stream on their YouTube and twitch channels so you can follow along and interact with them even if you are not able to take part yourself. 

Link to twitch and Simfest site – https://simfest.co.uk/      https://www.twitch.tv/simfestuk

I have been lucky to participate in Worldflight as part of an official team (Team Flex) a few times at Flight Deck Experience (near Manchester, UK) as a B737NG virtual pilot.  Planning usually commenced a few months ahead of the event, with team formation and ensuring all additional scenery was loaded on the simulator taking place.  There were usually a few practice sessions organised to ensure that everyone had a good standard of technical knowledge and general understanding of the standard operating procedures.  When you have two people working together and flying an airliner, it is critical that they operate to the same SOPs.  Also, once everyone had fed in their availability, a roster is produced for the week so everyone knew what flights they were allocated and had a chance to mentally prepare.  We would also find out at this point who was the most unpopular team member when it came to the allocation of the 3am slots!

A typical Worldflight roster for the week

On the day, my preparations would usually begin by looking at where the team’s current location in the virtual world and whether they were maintaining schedule.  I would then start to file the flight plan using some of the excellent online tools like simBrief (https://www.simbrief.com/) to get a routing and accurate fuel planning.  Anyone familiar with Worldflight will know that sometimes delays can happen as the airspace is so busy, so I always used to add in a ‘Worldflight fuel supplement’ of at least 10% extra fuel.  This is the sort of experience that can only be gained from years of participation and excellent ‘Commander’s knowledge’.

It was important to arrive at the simulator at least an hour beforehand, just like a real-world airline pilot would report for duty.  Once on site I could complete the final flight preparations including ensuring I had all my virtual flight paperwork ready, checking latest weather at departure and destination airports, and preparing my essential crew briefing – there would always be times you would fly with someone you hadn’t flown with before so a proper briefing was essential.

Crew in the simulator for a flight

The most challenging sectors were usually the shorter ones, typically less than 180 miles total distance.  This is mainly due to the short flight duration, and I found that the best way to prepare was by briefing the whole flight beforehand in order to avoid falling behind during the flight.  At the other end of the spectrum, there were occasionally long over water sectors (approx. 4-5 hours) which meant learning about operating the 737 under ETOPS which was all new to me.  ETOPS stands for Extended Range Twin Operations, or more commonly Engines Turn Or Passengers Swim amongst the airline pilot community!  Heading in to the approach and landing phases meant being  very aware of all the aircraft traffic around you and listening very closely on the Air Traffic Control frequency.  I am pleased to say that despite the challenges above, all my flights were successful and no crashes!

Sat in the cabin doing some preparation for the flight ahead

My personal wish is that it would be great if more simulator venues throughout the World took part in the Worldflight charity event.  I believe that participating in a Worldflight team is probably the closest an aviation or flight simulation enthusiast can be to experiencing the working life of a real-world airline pilot.  It is certainly a big ask for venues as it means taking your simulator offline for a whole week, but I think the experience and challenge afforded to simulator enthusiasts is immeasurably valuable and helps foster relationships between virtual pilots and the venue. 

Above all, despite the hard work and late nights/early mornings during the week, it is great fun to be part of the event and part of a simulator team.  If the opportunity to join a Worldflight team presents itself I would thoroughly recommend doing so.  If that’s not an option, but you are able to join in from home on a PC based simulator (even for a just a few legs during the week) it is well worth doing.

Within simulatorreview.com both Gavin and I have taken part in Worldflight several times.  Also, a friend of our podcast, Paul, has lots of experience flying in Worldflight too, and you can hear his comments on the event in Episode 9 of our podcast.  If you have any questions about Worldflight, VATSIM, or simulation in general, then please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you.

More information on Worldflight can be found here:

https://www.worldflight.com.au/

https://simfest.co.uk/worldflight-2020

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Categories
Blog Posts

Farewell to the Jumbo

IMG_5498
Alexis

Alexis

Farewell to the Jumbo

Over the last few weeks we have had the sad news that BA will be retiring their remaining fleet of 31 Boeing 747-400 aircraft. They were always destined to be retired in the next five or so years, but recent events have abruptly brought that forward, and it is certainly very sad news.

BA bought 57 of the 747-400 aircraft with the first arriving from 1989. They have very much been the flagship of the fleet, and at least in my opinion remained so even when the A380 was brought in to service. There is something really wonderful seeing BA livery 747s lined up at Heathrow, or at some far away airport where it is ready to bring you home.

From a personal point of view I had my first flights in a 747 back in 2011, and I have managed to fly on them 38 times in total. Ever since, where there has been a choice I have always picked the 747, although with them being gradually retired in the last few years they have been harder to find. As a passenger and an avgeek the jumbo is by far my favourite aircraft to fly on. It is perhaps one of the best looking aircraft flying, with the distinctive curves and hump, large canted tail, and the four Rolls Royce RB211 engines hung under the wings providing a great takeoff soundtrack.

Some of the best seats were on the unique upper deck, up the stairs and with only 20 seats it was almost like a small business jet with very little indication that you have several hundred passengers sat below you. The first class section in the nose forward of door 1 also offered the opportunity to sit further forward than the pilots. And in 1A/K due to the curvature of the nose you could actually see forward which is not something you get on any other aircraft. I loved hearing the gear rise up after takeoff as the nose wheel was only a few feet below you.

I also went on a pilgrimage to Seattle in May 2018, home of Boeing. I went to the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field where you can find and go onboard the first 747 ever made RA001 dating from 1969. For a jumbo fan this aircraft represents genesis.

In 2019 BA painted a number of aircraft in heritage liveries to celebrate their 100 year anniversary. Three of the jumbos were painted, one each with the BOAC, Negus, and Landor liveries. They all looked spectacular, and I managed to go on the Negus livery 747 in August that year when returning from Cape Town. Another 747 highlight in 2019 was at the Royal International Air Tattoo in July where the BOAC livery 747 flew in formation with the Red Arrows, and luckily I was there to see it in person.

There really aren’t many 747 simulators around unfortunately. Our database only has seven entries for the jumbo, and it’s a real shame there aren’t more. In the UK the Simfest 747 is one of the best simulators we have seen and reviewed, and whilst you can watch and follow them on Twitch it isn’t possible to visit unfortunately.

I was lucky enough to fly the BA 747 full motion simulators a few times between 2014 and 2018. For someone used to flying 737 simulators the height off the ground was very noticeable on landing because you just don’t feel as close to the ground in those final moments as you do in a 737. However, it really was very easy to control and the flight controls really didn’t require much force to operate – the main issue can be the throttles and with smaller hands it can be a stretch to get your hand across all four! If you could start to master the very noticeable pitch power couple, and be gentle with the controls, it was very rewarding. I was lucky to have those experiences, as well as fly on the jumbos so many times as a passenger.

My last long haul flight before all the restrictions was on a 747 from JFK back to LHR. A route that the BA 747 has served more than any other. I usually try and get to sleep straight away on such a short overnight flight, but I had decided to stay up as long as possible to enjoy it. I didn’t realise it would be the last time I would fly on a BA 747.

I think anyone who loves aviation will miss the BA 747. It is a wonderful aircraft to look at and to fly on. Farewell old chum. We had some good times together.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
Categories
Blog Posts

Fixed Base vs Full Motion Simulators

VQ5A5326
Alexis

Alexis

Fixed Base vs Full Motion Simulators

In this article we examine the difference between fixed base and full motion simulators, and in particular share our experiences and give my opinions on each type.

What do we mean by fixed base and full motion?

The majority of simulators we see on our directory are fixed base. This means they are simulators that are fitted directly onto the floor and have no physical motion mechanisms. Some of the best fixed base simulators we have visited use devices such as rumble motors and ‘butt kickers’ to add a physical sensation of motion and fool the pilots’ senses (sight, sound, and haptics) to complement the imagery out of the flight deck windows – which is very effective by itself.

A full motion simulator is mounted on a motion platform which is able to move in all six degrees of freedom (roll, pitch, yaw, surge, heave, and sway) to give real physical sensations that are synchronised with the visual display. It’s worth noting that the motion one would see externally does not necessarily correlate with what is occurring inside ‘the box’. The motion system purely provides the physical sensations of flight. To elaborate, a significant pitch up (as seen from outside) would create a pressure on the pilot inside the simulator and represent an acceleration force. Conversely, a pitch down (as seen from outside) would simulate a deceleration force with the pilot feeling pressure on the seat harness.

Electric vs hydraulic full motion

There are two types of full motion system, hydraulic and electric. Hydraulic is the traditional system that has powered full motion systems for decades, but this is noisy, requires a lot of maintenance and space and is generally considered old technology. We’re not too worried about that though. What it gives us as pilots is a very realistic and accurate flight control ‘feel’. Most airliners (except the very latest jets) have hydraulically powered flight controls, and by pressurising the systems to the same level, you can accurately replicate the control forces required in the actual aircraft

Electric full motion is the modern standard and most, if not all, new full motion simulators are supplied on an electric platform. Some advantages for the owner are they have a lower maintenance cost, an advanced level of diagnostics, increased reliability, longer life parts, quieter, less space required (no need to house the hydraulics and associated items) and a reduced power consumption. They can also handle heavier payloads (bigger flight decks/more people) and provide smoother motion. You’ll also be pleased to read that they have thought about ensuring safety in the event of a power cut!

What are the benefits of full motion?

Whist the majority of my simulator experience has entailed flying fixed base simulators, I have been very fortunate to have flown several full motion ‘Level D’ simulators that are used by the airlines. I have to say the acceleration you experience when starting off down the runway and during rotation when taking off and the deceleration when braking during landing is incredible and as mentioned earlier is achieved by some clever trickery in terms of moving the simulator forward and aft about the pitch axis – even though the image in front of the pilot’s eyes is (or should be!) level.

The platform movement about both pitch and roll axies is certainly noticeable, but in the context of normal airline route flying (I’m assuming you wouldn’t be performing aerobatics at this stage!), the sensation/movements aren’t that dramatic, just in the same way it isn’t when you fly as a passenger on a real airliner.

The main advantage, as I see it, of full motion is in weather conditions such as turbulence in cloud or on a windy day, where you really can be thrown around a bit in your seat as the full motion system simulates that. It can be quite dramatic and very realistic.

A further benefit of full motion simulation is you get a very accurate portrayal of your landings. In a fixed base simulator, it is often difficult to tell whether you have perfected a good landing technique with a good flare and touchdown or it whether it was more on the firm side of where we’d like to be. It is possible to install software in a simulator which measures and assesses the landing phase in its entirety, but it is still difficult to really get an appreciation of landing performance. In a full motion simulator there is absolutely no doubt at all as to the success of the manoeuvre as it is very easy to feel whether you had a good landing, or perhaps flared too little and too late and hit the runway with a almighty thump – it happens to the best of us!

Are there any negatives aspects to full motion?

The primary negative aspect of full motion simulators is usually the cost of the systems, which invariable means higher prices for the customer. A turnkey purchase price of a brand new and advanced fixed base simulator is in the region of £200,000 ($250,000 ,€220,000), whereas an Airbus A350 or Boeing 787 Level D simulator is approximately £15m ($18.5m, €16.5m). 1 hour in a fixed base simulator is approximately £120 ($150, €135) compared to 1 hour in a full motion simulator at £450 ($560, €500). An exception to the rule, and we’re seeing more and more of these emerge, are the entertainment/non-Level D market simulators mounted on electronic motion platforms. These differ in terms of functionality and accuracy when compared to ATO quality Level D machines, but are on a par with the fixed base simulator pricing. A fantastic example is at Simulator Adventures (Manchester, UK) where an A320 full motion simulator operates. See our review here. Whilst ever so slightly more expensive than a fixed base simulator, the extra is well justified when considering the cost and complexity of the system.

Due to the strict and fixed dimensions of a simulator that sits on a moving platform, there isn’t usually a great deal of room inside for groups or guests. A few of the best fixed base simulators we have visited have gone to great lengths to create a passenger cabin immediately behind the flight deck simulator as it would be in real life, where spectators can sit, observe and really feel a part of the experience. Jet Sim School (Peterborough, UK) and Deeside (Ellesmere Port, UK) are two fantastic examples. Unfortunately, it really isn’t possible to have a cabin section with a full motion simulator, or at least have a cabin which is directly behind the cockpit due to the motion requirements.

Summary

If you do get the chance to sample flight in a full motion simulator, I would certainly recommend it as an experience that’s well worth having. Previously full motion simulation was the preserve of the airlines and commercial flight training organisations, and these simulators were either not available to the public at all, or if available, they were incredibly expensive. However, as full motion technology becomes cheaper with use of the electronic platforms/systems we are seeing more of, reasonably priced, full motion simulators are becoming available. Some examples we have seen and which are featured reviews on our site include Real Simulation (Harrogate, UK), Simulator Adventures (Salford, UK), and Dream Aero (Dubai, UAE). As I wrote earlier, the hourly rates for these is more in line with fixed based simulators, so they are not likely to break the bank if you fancy giving them a try.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email