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Reviewed by simulatorreview.com

SEMET Aviation

SEMET Aviation

SEMET Aviation Logo

Located on a thriving general aviation airport just to the south west of London, SEMET Aviation offers a friendly yet professional training and experience simulator venue staffed exclusively by airline pilots.

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SEMET Aviation is a new simulation venue having only commenced operations in February 2021.  They are co-located with their sister company, Airline Experience, at Fairoaks Airport in Surrey, which has a busy general aviation scene and hosts the very popular Hangar Café as well as a host of other aviation businesses.  We received a friendly welcome from the SEMET Aviation owners who kindly spent much time explaining their simulator and business plans to us along with some interesting future projects.

What is good

What's not so good

The Simulators

The simulator has a single seat and represents a generic light aircraft with multiple configuration options.  It can simulate a fixed gear, fixed pitch single engine piston aircraft such as a Piper Warrior, a ‘complex single’ with retractable gear and variable pitch propellor and also a complex multi-engine aircraft such as a Beechcraft Baron.  With these aircraft types in mind, we feel the single seat set up is both realistic and appropriate as these aircraft are typically flown by one pilot.  The instructor station is located behind and to the right of the pilot position and allows a good instructional environment with space to share manuals, charts and experience between them.  The pilot seat was comfy and adjustable, but didn’t have a harness as found in other similar simulators.

Out of the cockpit windows is a 180 degree wrap around 1080p HD projected visual system which has ever so slight patches of overlap, but no blank spots or dark areas.  Our instructor for the session pointed out to us that while it is possible to simulate flying visually in any location around the world, 90% of the time the simulator is in IMC (instrument meteorological conditions) using the worldwide database of airways and navigation aids.  The simulator has special scenery installed for Innsbruck in Austria and also the whole of the UK, with particular mention going to their home base (Fairoaks) where even the construction cranes on the horizon have been modelled!  Weather and air/ground traffic is simulated and while the majority of the time the simulation was smooth, we did experience a couple of visual ‘jerks’ as the computers kept up with the complex scenery generation.

The flight controls are off the shelf simulation products and as such have a slightly artificial feel to them.  However, we didn’t feel this detracted from the simulation at all and considering the variety of types simulated it wouldn’t be possible to cater for such a requirement.  The electric yoke mounted trim was realistic as was the appearance and feel of the materials, but we found the rudder pedals a little challenging with directional control on the ground.  The engine sounds were realistic and set at a level that would be appropriate for inside the aircraft.  We didn’t see an intercom facility, but ambient and system noises were present and realistic.

The instrument panel can be configured in a variety of manners to replicate the traditional instrument layout found on both VMC and IMC rated light aircraft.  We were disappointed to see that a glass cockpit option wasn’t available as this represents a growing number of modern GA aircraft, but we understand this is a new simulator and it is on the owners’ development wish list along with partial panel configurations to simulate instrument failure or degradation.  On the subject of failures, when turning onto final approach during our test flight, the cockpit began filling with smoke reducing the pilot’s visibility and further adding to the urgency of landing the simulator.  Far from being a real emergency, this is a neat feature SEMET Aviation have added to their simulator’s list of capabilities and while some may consider it ‘a little gimmicky’, we think a smoke generator adds another element of realism when training in non-normal situations.

Of particular note is the simulator’s connectivity – this is something we like to see in an increasingly ‘linked’ simulation world.  The simulator can be operated with real-time, real-world weather and can also tap into the virtual online air traffic network, VATSIM, incorporating other air traffic piloted in simulators from around the globe.  Our favourite feature of the simulator is the integration with popular GA products such as SkyDemon (popular in Europe) and Foreflight (more prevalent in the USA).  By using a tablet mounted to the right of the pilot, real world flight data can be presented as it would in the actual aircraft giving access to simulator ‘location’, flight measurements/parameters and also instrument procedure charts/manuals.  Particularly impressive is how all of the above can be combined to present the VATSIM traffic on the SkyDemon display as aircraft targets – just as it would in the actual aircraft.  Whilst a realistic and very fancy capability, the training potential this provides is immense, whether it be tactical flying in congested airspace, dealing with traffic avoidance or simply adding a spoiler to increase pilot workload at an inappropriate time!

The Venue

We make no secret of the fact that, at Simulator Review, we are huge fans of airport locations and in our opinion, it doesn’t get much better than this – especially for a GA simulation venue. Fairoaks Airport is a busy general aviation airfield with both flying instruction and private/VIP fixed and rotary wing operations.It is located approximately 5 minutes from the M25 to the South West of London in Surrey and the airport is well signposted – as is the venue. It’s worth noting that the west entrance to the airport provides simpler access to SEMET Aviation and this entrance can be found a hundred metres or so on from the main airport entrance.  Parking is plentiful and access to the building is via a few steps.

Inside is well appointed with a couple of desks for briefings, plenty of seating and large leather sofas.  The session will begin here by the large TV displaying pertinent weather and flight information before moving into the simulation room.  Seating is also plentiful in the simulator room, with more than enough room for family/friends to accompany the pilot, or multiple students to benefit from the training sessions.  NB:  This is currently limited due to the social distancing restrictions the venue is obliged to follow.

Complimentary refreshments are offered, but we’d highly recommend the popular Hangar Café just a short walk across the airfield (umbrella required on a rainy day!) where a mean sausage, bacon and egg baguette and a flat white can be purchased and consumed for only a few pounds.  The Hangar café offers great close-up views across the apron and is often busy with pilots, students, families and enthusiasts soaking up the aviation atmosphere.

When considering customers with special needs or reduced mobility, the business owners acknowledge that not having a ramp or lift and being situated up a series of steps does pose a challenge.  They are very happy to chat in advance or even host a pre-visit to assess any requirements.  Once inside, the rest of the venue is mostly accessible, but the simulator has a shallow step up and access to toilet facilities is down a series of steps.  SEMET Aviation was very keen for the situation not to deter any customers, and they would do all they can to assist and arrange any help required to accommodate everyone.

Bookings can be completed on the website or over the phone, and the venue is manned most of the time by one of the owners.  Both experiences and training details can be booked, with experiences requiring booking through sister company Airline Experience.  Offers are often available and this can be found through the Fairoaks Flight Simulators website. The simulator can also be privately hired by pilots and instructors for practise and tuition. Half an hour is planned between sessions to allow the simulator to be fully cleansed and also add a bit of buffer for when sessions over run.  The venue is keen to point out that there is little clock watching and should the opportunity to slightly extend the session arise then they happily/usually do this – getting something from the session and enjoyment are their top priorities.

As we’ve said previously, the majority of SEMET Aviation’s custom is training based and as such they’ve seen an opportunity to offer some bespoke training courses using their simulator.  Worth mentioning are technical courses such as exploring the full SkyDemon/Foreflight range of capabilities or use of the Garmin GPS systems and also more ‘soft skill’ courses such as SRM (single pilot resource management) where the instructors will apply their real-world airline experience to offer tips and advice on decision making, leadership, human factors and general airmanship.

The Staff and Business

Even though the venue was very busy and operating with a full schedule, the owners made us feel very welcome and booked us a considerable amount of time in their simulator.  We met most of their team and we’re hosted by one of their top airline pilot instructors, who also happened to be an examiner and instructor on Airbus A320 airliners for a large UK airline.  The business really wants to be viewed as a friendly and approachable venue and wishes to really foster the aviation community spirit.  They want customers, friends of the business and enthusiasts to drop in, have a coffee and chat and there’s usually an airline pilot or two about – we all know they love nothing more than to chat about aeroplanes!

SEMET also offer a limited number of work experience placements as part of their desire to give back to the local community and a relationship with Aerobility is being established to offer the charity some valuable time in their simulator.  We like to see community and charitable commitments as it is a good indicator as to the nature of the business and its owners.

Summary

Located on a thriving general aviation airport just to the south west of London, SEMET Aviation offers a friendly yet professional training and experience venue staffed exclusively by airline pilots.  Being such a busy venue is a testament to the owners and how the simulator has been pitched and we are confident as to the value it provides our fellow aviators and aspiring pilots.

Review by Elliott and Alexis, May 2021

Get in touch with SEMET Aviation

Location
Unit B1H, Fairoaks Airport, Chobham, Surrey, GU24 8HU, UK
Categories
Reviewed by simulatorreview.com

Delta 5 Flight Simulators

Delta 5 Flight Simulators

A dedicated and exciting flight training centre in the heart of São Paulo.

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A warm and genuine welcome you will find at Delta 5. A well established and professional training centre that also provides an opportunity for the keen flight sim enthusiasts to test their skills from a Baron 58 up to the A320 or B737; or for those wanting to further their skills in jet or IR flying.

What is good

What's not so good

The Simulators

Delta 5 has an impressive line-up with six fixed base flight simulators on-site, from the Baron 58 to the A320 and B737. Despite a very busy training program for jet courses and instrument rating (IR) training they provided time for us to fly each simulator.

The other unique aspect of Delta 5’s operation is that they assemble their own simulators and manufacture many of the parts, in particular the plastic facings. This provides them with an ability to deliver on the quality of parts but also an additional line in their business through selling simulators and support packages to other training and simulator businesses.

Baron 58
The two Baron 58s are classified as Advanced Aviation Training Devices (AATD). Under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s Regulations, these types of trainers can be used for a lot of the training for an instrument rating.

The two Barons are identical in construction, visual displays, single pilot operations, seats, feel etc. The only difference being them is one is setup with a traditional flight instruments arrangement, with a supplementary basic GPS Navigation unit, while the other has the impressive Garmin G1000 integrated flight instrument system, with two displays; the left being the PFD and the right being a multi-function display unit.

The visual are a single projector unit onto a flat panel. Even though AATD’s are not designed for training in visual conditions, the detail around the Sao Paolo area was still impressive, including road traffic, and was more than enough for the setup.

King Air
The next simulator we tried was the King Air, with its multi-pilot setup and the Garmin GPS 500 high-resolution display unit. The King Air is a Flight Training Device (FTD) Level 4 training simulator (or the more technically correct name is “device” as under the FAA rules only those simulators that move can be called a simulator). This means that the “simulator” is “similar to a Cockpit Procedures Trainer (CPT). This level does not require an aerodynamic model, but accurate systems modelling is required” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_simulator).

The King Air is an impressive setup, being a true representation of the real cockpit, with flight controls both sides for multi-crew operations as required and a 110 degree curved visual display screen using a single projector unit. This, along with the Prepare 3D software package, provides a good level of detail and a really nice visual picture. The visual were smooth, well lit and the curved screen provides just that touch more realism when compared to the flat panel.

A320
We then moved onto the A320, which is a FTD Level 4 unit with 210 degree three projector display visuals. Along with the B737 simulator this is a busy simulator for Delta 5 with regular jet courses passing through their eight day training program.

We tested the feel of the simulator for taxiing and a departure, along with visuals which included rain and snow. From the side displays the weather looked very realistic compared to the real thing, but the front display wasn’t quite as that experienced in real life. However, although the display panel was made up of three flat panels there were no light or dark areas in the joins and the projected movement was smooth and realistic. As with the Barons and King Air, the graphics package is the Lockheed Martin Prepare 3D. The airport and terrain detail was very good and gave one a real sense of being on the flight deck.

As with most simulators ground maneuvering isn’t quite like the real aircraft. However to be fair, even the Full Flight Simulators (FFS) Level D that I have used also struggle to accurately represent the feel and dynamics of ground movement. So in comparison to those simulators the Delta 5 devices do a good job.

The flight deck is an accurate representation of an A320 setup, even with a full circuit breaker panel (which is for show, but does add to the feel of simulator). The switches and buttons operated as they should and the overall layout look is very realistic providing an immersive environment.

The instructors panel, behind the two pilots’ seats, provides full control of the virtual environment and aircraft. This enables the aircraft to be flown in all weather conditions and non-normal scenarios, with fully functional switches and buttons on the flight deck to deal with such situations.

B737
Following the Airbus we moved onto the B737, an aircraft I’m much more familiar with having flown the 300, 400 and 500 versions previously. This Level 4 FTD is based on the B737-800 NG model and looks very impressive. The visuals are the same setup as the A320 with three flat panels and three projectors providing an immersive 210 degree Prepare 3D display, again with excellent airport detail and surrounding terrain. Although the visuals seem to struggle a little more, when compared to the A320 and there are noticeable, although minor, lighter and darker join lines where the flat display panels meet on the left and right sides respectively.

We taxied off stand for a rolling start departure following a standard instrument departure. The aircraft handling is accurate in roll but a little more sluggish in pitch. A fully functional flight management computer (FMC) provides the pilot with all that is required, including of course vertical navigation (VNAV). All flight modes worked well and the autopilot functioned as one would expect in the aircraft.

An instrument landing system (ILS) CAT 1 was performed in good visibility; very good terrain and weather detail. The flight director (FD) function seemed to struggle a little with the ILS in pitch mode, as it failed to provide correcting guidance as we moved away from the glide slope. Even at one dot low the FDs did not provide correcting pitch guidance to bring the aircraft back onto the correct path. As we only did the one approach and so did not test it again, this could be due to the simulator just having a bad day, as they (and pilots) sometimes do.

Like the A320, the B737 simulator instructors panel provides full control of the environment and aircraft systems.

Agusta AW139 Helicopter
The final simulator looked at was the Agusta AW 139 helicopter, which was quite the experience as one has never been in a helicopter (simulated or real). Let us say my helicopter handling is going to take a little more practice – José is a most patient instructor.

The Agusta, like the Barons, is an AATD with a flat panel single projector visual display setup. The only difference in visuals is X-Plane is used as the software package.

This is the first simulator business the Simulator Review team has reviewed that has a helicopter and so is another real positive for Delta 5, providing something to the public that few other providers do.

Due to the lack of experience in the team with helicopters there isn’t a lot we can comment on regarding the handling of the device compared to the real setup. However, the fully functioning cockpit, including autopilot capability, FMC, multi-function display and PFD, and standby instruments was impressive and provides a very immersive environment.

Overall
An excellent setup of simulators providing a variety of experiences in realistic environments with very good visuals. The only niggle that some very keen flight enthusiasts might find are the seats. Remembering this is primarily a training business setup for jet and IR courses, seats are therefore not very important. However, if you are looking for say the full electric moving Airbus seat etc, these are not fitted. Actually none of the seats had a vertical adjustment option, so one may need a more manual device option (often called a cushion) if that is something needed.

The Venue

Delta 5 has a great location, based on Campo de Marte Airport. Opened in 1919 Campo de Marte was São Paulo’s first airport and so is a real link back to aviation’s heritage.

The premises were easy to find on google. I used Uber from my hotel and the driver dropped me off right outside their door. Signage on the building is good and the security staff at the gate know exactly where it is and can point this out as you come through.

As mentioned, access to Delta 5 is through a security check-point. Although there is a charge for parking at the airport, Delta 5 will often assist with this; it just depends on how busy their simulators are at the time, in particular with the jet course training that is currently in full swing. Therefore if they have any spare allocated parks available these are available for visitors.

The premises are clean and tidy: a ground level building with Delta 5 having use of the whole premises. There is a welcoming entrance with seating, including an original aircraft seat row for the true enthusiast. Free WiFi is available while you wait and toilets are just down the hall. Being a ground level building access for those less mobile is made easier, although there is the usual small small step-up into the flight-decks of the A320 and B737. Based on our experience in dealing with Delta 5 we are sure they are very happy to talk about any needs or concerns you may have here, so just reach out to them beforehand and speak with them about your requirements.

The Staff and Business

Right from our initial contact with Delta 5 by email to organise a visit, their communication has always been friendly and prompt. And this experience carried on in meeting both the owner, Mauro Ramalho and his right-hand man José Olyntho Machado Jr. José spent over four hours with us going through each simulator, explaining the business and even providing a tour of the land-side part of the airport and a look at the many different operators based there. One derived a real sense of passion and enthusiasm for flight training and the desire to provide a quality service to their customers from José.

At any time there are 12 to 15 instructors who are a mix of current or retired airline pilots. Standard Airbus and Boeing operating procedures are used in training, with full Quick Reference Handbooks (QRH) on the flight decks for the jet training. So if you are interested in trying something more challenging in the simulator Delta 5 can certainly help.

There are two, very well priced, simulator experience products available from Delta 5. The first under “Professionals” is tailored for the professional pilot looking for jet familiarisation, preparation for selection, IR training or even hiring a simulator with or without their own instructor (you make the selection from a drop-down menu). While the “Entertainment” packages are tailored for either buying a gift voucher for someone else or buying the excellent “Pilot for a day” option. They describe this package as “… an experience in flight simulators of the most popular aircraft of Brazilian aviation (Boeing 737 or Airbus A320) with 90 or 120 minutes in duration”. And at R$350.00 this is very good value!

Summary

Delta 5 is a business that has a real passion for flight training and provides a quality, excellent value for money, choice for those wanting to further their career through jet training, IR training, or someone just wanting to further their interest in flight simulation. It’s a business we can recommend to our readers and look forward to seeing the business grow and visiting it again when back in Brazil’s most populous city, São Paulo.

Review by Andrew, March 2020.

Get in touch with Delta 5 Flight Simulators

Location
Avenida Olavo Fontoura, Setor D, Lote 8, 1078 – Santana, São Paulo – SP, 02012-021, Brazil
Contact them on
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Reviewed by simulatorreview.com

Emirates A380 Experience

Emirates A380 Experience

emirates - long logo

Emirates branded A380 entertainment simulator set within the busy Dubai Mall.

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A fun A380 simulator in the busy Dubai Mall, firmly aimed at the entertainment sector of the market.

What is good

What's not so good

The Simulators

Set in a prominent position within the huge Dubai Mall, the Emirates simulator is eye catching and looks impressive from the outside.  The fixed base simulator is housed within a large A380 front shell, containing the flight deck and two pilot seats. The visual system is limited to approximately 100 degrees of lateral visibility with no view possible from the side windows.  Scenery is considered basic and we assume uses stock P3D software, which only animates the bare minimum in terms of airport configuration and major landmarks. The simulator is primarily composed for flying around Dubai or London.

The flight controls are also what we consider to be at a basic level of realism.  For example, the behaviour of the side stick is at odds with airbus flight control logic which other sims we have visited replicate accurately.  Once you have banked the aircraft, a lateral pressure is required on the sidestick to maintain the bank angle and turn. This is not the case in real Airbus aircraft.  For a customer who seeks a quick, hands on, fun flight and has no experience, this will not be an issue, but for a more seasoned simulation aviator we would advise this as a little frustrating.

Once seated in the flight deck, there are a few controls which are functional. These include all of what we consider the primary flight controls; the parking brake, thrust levers, side stick, flap lever, landing gear lever, speed brake and foot brakes.  Additionally, some of the switches on the overhead panel are simulated. All other switches and buttons are painted on or stickers. The primary flight displays, flight directors and navigation displays are functional, along with the two centre system displays.  Real aircraft systems such as autopilot or autothrust are not functional, but the navigation displays are able to show some pre-programed routes.

Simulator and aircraft system setup is done via the instructors’ tablet.  It has some ability to program and simulate basic failures such as an engine failure. However, with such limited controls and system functionality, the ability to deal with failures and more interesting simulated scenarios is limited.  Pre-recorded ATC chatter played in the background for realism and some artificial aircraft traffic can be added for further realism.

The Venue

The Emirates simulator is located on the second floor of the large and busy Dubai Mall, and is an impressive sight.  It is not specifically signed, but there are many electronic information points around the mall where it is possible to check your location and obtain directions.  As you might imagine, access to the Dubai Mall is simple and plentiful, whether by car or by metro. There is ample parking. The Mall has a huge amount of other attractions and shopping inside, so whilst the simulator may not be the primary attraction for a specific trip, it can be worth being part of a longer visit to the Mall.

A small reception area is roped off at the rear of the simulator with a reception desk and three economy airliner seats – these are arranged away from the back of the simulator and set perpendicular to the flight deck, rendering them unsuitable for spectating.  The area just behind the pilots is not enclosed so spectators can stand directly behind and watch – so too can anyone passing by in the Mall, no pressure!

The simulator is very much geared towards bookings being made online, and there is an online calendar so you can select the date and time for either 15/30/60 minute slots.  At AED 350 (about £75) for 30 minutes and AED 650 (about £140) for 60 minutes this puts the Emirates simulator in the price range of fully functional and much more advanced fixed based simulators.  For a fun, entertainment simulator, this venue is quite expensive.

There is no briefing area and sessions begin in the simulator itself. There isn’t any time allocated before your timed session for a briefing, and we noted that bookings are arranged directly after one another with no flex.  We imagine this is due to demand as it is a prominent and busy venue, but in the case of any technical issues, there is no ability to allow sessions to overrun or faults fixed before the next session starts.

When considering customers with reduced mobility or special needs, the venue is ideally located and very accessible.  Shopping mall functionality helps considerably with plenty of lifts and escalators, and no steps or access issues to the venue.  However, once inside the simulator, the natural reduced space means access to the seats and flight deck may be an issue.

The Staff and Business

Unlike our other simulator reviews, we decided this venue was best sampled as a normal customer, and we booked and paid for a standard 30 minute experience.  After checking in, there was a short discussion about whether we had any simulator experience, and then it was straight in with no pre-flight briefing, discussion of what we would like to do, or orientation with the simulator and controls.  Of course, one could ask if there is something specific you’d like to sample, but we would expect a better level of engagement and customer service.

The simulator is Emirates branded and this is relevant as they are by far the world’s largest operator of A380s and very much the local airline. However, apart from the logos and some Emirates branded merchandise, the Emirates presence isn’t really felt – don’t expect the excellent customer service and flying experience the airline itself provides and don’t expect any Emirates pilots to be doing the instructing!  In fact the instructors are not real pilots at all, but based on the level this simulator is pitched at this isn’t be necessary.

Summary

A fun A380 simulator aimed at those who want to try a simulator for the first time and enjoy a simple but fun flying experience.  Sadly, it is let down by the customer service and instruction, limited simulator functionality and we feel it is over priced for what is offered.  This simulator is very much at the entertainment end of the market and really should be viewed as somewhere to have a little fun rather than a serious simulator experience.

Review by Alexis and Gavin, February 2020.

Get in touch with Emirates A380 Experience

Location
The Dubai Mall, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Rd, Dubai, UAE
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Reviewed by simulatorreview.com

Dream Aero Dubai

Dream Aero Dubai

Dream Aero

A unique full motion B737 simulator in Dubai, catering for both professional pilot and entertainment markets.

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Dream Aero is part of a larger network of simulators situated in the USA and Russia, and offers a full motion Boeing 737-800 simulator conveniently located in the centre of Dubai.

What is good

What's not so good

The Simulators

Unlike many flight simulators in the market, Dream Aero offers a full motion experience in their Boeing 737-800 and the venue setting in the middle of Dubai Festival City Mall is certainly very striking.

Once inside, the simulator is fully functional and very realistic – the only thing missing are the circuit breakers panels. The panels and instruments are all very realistic and are of a high standard of fit and realism. When operating the flight controls, we felt the rudder pedals were a little on the loose side and the flight control yoke a little over sensitive. To Dream Aero’s credit, they acknowledged our findings and were upfront about their plans to improve these factors in the very near future.

When considering the full motion aspect of the simulator we flew in different flight configurations and a variety of weather phenomena and from this experience we can confirm that events such as turbulence feel very authentic. The motion is a fantastic asset to the simulator and we would normally only expect to see full motion on expensive professional airline simulators.

The 220 degree wrap around visual system consists of three high mounted projectors. The visual picture from the pilots’ seat is not collimated. Collimation is an extremely expensive modification and once again, only usually found on professional flight training simulators. Dream Aero have plans to upgrade their visual system with new projectors, so the already very good visuals already are destined to become even better. Pre-recorded ATC chatter is played in the background to add to the level of realism, along with the simulation of other aircraft traffic visually, which can be added in.

The simulator operates X-plane software, which is well known for offering very realistic flight dynamics. Dream Aero are able to offer a huge range of variables for simulator sessions including weather, time of day and various system failures. In particular, the variety and quantity of simulated system failures is very comprehensive and more than you would usually expect to see in a simulator of this standard. Additionally, X-plane software is well known for offering a high level of scenery coverage straight out of the box, which means wherever the sim may be flying the visual picture ‘out of the window’ should be realistic.

The Venue

Dream Aero is located on the ground floor within the large Dubai Festival City Mall which is near the Dubai Creek and Dubai International Airport. Unlike other simulators we have visited in shopping malls this one is situated in the middle of a central atrium and the prominent raised simulator and reception area form an impressive sight.

In terms of accessibility, Dubai Festival City Mall has plentiful parking and has good transport links. Additionally, the simulator benefits from being associated with a large mall and all the shopping, food and drink options that it contains.

A small reception desk and a seating area is located behind the simulator, where customers can wait. This area has a live video feed so spectators can watch and enjoy action from inside the simulator. A positive attribute we like seeing is a manned reception so there is always someone to welcome and help, especially when the instructors are busy – something that Dream Aero does well. There aren’t any dedicated briefing rooms as this process is completed in the seating area (the surrounding mall atmosphere wasn’t too distracting) or inside the simulator if time permits.

Generally, Dream Aero advise that customers need to be eight years or older, and we think that is sensible as younger children may not get as much out of the experience. The simulator has space for three people in addition to the instructor, which should cater for most circumstances; is also possible to watch a live video feed on the television in the seating area outside the simulator. If a recording of the simulator experience is desired, a go-pro video can be purchased for a small charge of AED 79 on a flash memory stuck. In any case, customers are encouraged to bring their own cameras and take as many photos and videos as they wish.

When considering customers with special needs or reduced mobility, Dream Aero will do their upmost to try and accommodate everyone. The mall is very accessible, but as it is necessary for a raised full motion simulator to have steps these could prove a challenge for some. However, because of the venue location it is easy for any prospective customers to come and have a look first to see whether this would be an issue.

Gift certificates may be purchased via the website and over the phone, and bookings can be made the same way. An additional advantage of being located in a mall is its accessibility and walk-in enquires and bookings are very welcome.

We consider the prices to be very reasonable for a full motion simulator of this quality, and Dream Aero also offer reduced rates for weekdays which are typically less busy. There are a number of promotions and discounts available to customers. The simulator attracts and caters for a mixture of customers including local Emiratis, expat residents, and also tourists. Options exist to fly more in-depth experiences and profiles with real world procedures backed up with instructors who are commercial pilots. With the nearby DXB airport and multiple local large airlines, the simulator attracts a significant amount of custom from professional aviators such as current pilots preparing for assessments and sim checks – Dream Aero boasts an impressive success rate for those who visit.

Each customer is given a briefing and a chance to discuss what they would like to do. Dream Aero are clear that these briefings are in addition to the time in the simulator, so if an hour is purchased, then the customer will be flying the simulator for the full hour – this is very much a positive in our view and not something all simulators offer. Dream Aero also ensure that time is available between bookings to allow for flexibility and overruns on the rare occasions there are problems.

Dream Aero are keen on asking for feedback on the day immediately after the session to ensure that they can learn directly from their customers’ experiences and continually improve what they offer. This shows a responsible approach to the simulation business and is very much to their credit.

The Staff and Business

Dream Aero in Dubai has been established since 2017, and is part of a much larger business with a similar simulator in Washington DC, and more based in Russia. Dream Aero benefits from the support that a larger network can provide, with regular visits from the technical and maintenance staff in Russia to update and improve the simulator.

Their uniformed instructors are all commercial pilots which helps create authentic and accurate experiences for their customers, and allows them to offer their simulators to the professional aviation market for those working in commercial aviation.

We were also impressed by the warm and open welcome we received during our visit. This goes a long way towards helping make customers feel welcome and relaxed for the session. With so many simulators already in existence and more opening each month, we find customer service to be as an important factor as the simulator hardware itself, and Dream Aero certainly rates highly on both counts.

Summary

We received a very warm and cheery welcome at a Dream Aero, who have a full motion Boeing 737 simulator. Actual commercial pilots are instructors and the venue is able to cater for the whole market range – from the first time flyer to seasoned professionals. Dream Aero clearly prides itself on excellent customer service, and considering the future improvements, this simulator can only get better. A very good simulator for anyone wanting a realistic flight experience in the UAE.Review by Alexis and Gavin, February 2020.

Since Our Visit

We always welcome updates from simulator businesses we have visited and reviewed. Dream Aero have been very busy since our visit in February 2020, only a few weeks ago, and have updated us with the following changes made to their simulators:

  • new more realistic aerodynamics software. This has enabled better sensitivity for the yoke and rudder pedals;
  • new projectors providing a cleaner and brighter picture;
  • a new sound system; and
  • an updated airport database.

Get in touch with Dream Aero

Location
Dubai Festival City Mall, Ground Floor, next to Centrepoint Dubai, UAE
Contact them on

Website : dream.aero

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Reviewed by simulatorreview.com

Ascent Aviation

Ascent Aviation

Ascent Aviation

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.

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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.

What is good

What's not so good

The Simulators

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 Venue

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.

The Staff and Business

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.

Summary

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.

Review by Elliott and Alexis, January 2020.

Since Our Visit

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:

  • vibration for the pilots seats; this provides better simulation of gear operation, runway bumps, speed brakes, flaps etc; and
  • realistic smoke from air conditioning packs, enhancing the realism of simulated failures; and
  • a new A320 fixed base simulator.

Get in touch with Ascent Aviation

Location
32 Napier St, Linwood, Paisley, PA3 3AJ, UK
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Reviewed by simulatorreview.com

Leading Edge Flight Training

Leading Edge Flight Training

leading edge

A well-established flying school at Glasgow airport, with a busy general aviation club atmosphere. They have real airline pilots as club members and instructors, so you can be sure of an authentic airline environment.

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Leading Edge Flight Training have been operating their simulator for 18 months and are one of two venues in the Glasgow area. We enjoyed visiting and chatting with the Allan, the owner, who gave a very candid overview of the flight simulation and flight training markets, along with their plans for the simulator’s future.

What is good

What's not so good

The Simulators

Leading Edge’s simulator is in the most part an accurate B737 Next Generation flightdeck, with a projected 180 degree wrap-around visual display system. This is not collimated, and as such, the centre of vision is more aligned with the centre of the flightdeck. However collimation is extremely expensive and is normally found on only the most expensive and professional flight training simulators. The simulator has scenery for most airports that are likely to be visited during an experience. The Glasgow airport scenery and local area was good, but in contrast, we did feel Heathrow was a little sparse and more generic. We always like to look at London Heathrow as it is one of the more demanding airports on the visual system and is familiar to us, allowing a fair comparison between venues. We also looked at simulated weather; rain and snow looked very authentic.

The simulator was easy to fly accurately, with little to no dead band in the flight control yoke. Some switches were missing/loose, which was attributed to rougher use by some customers and high demand, but Allan has an extensive refurbishment plan for the simulator. We could see this was well underway, with great improvements that are imminent – new seat covers, glass for the windows, new switches and most importantly revised rudder pedals. It’s worth bearing in mind that all of these components attract a significant cost and it’s commendable that a simulator owner is willing and in the process of making the upgrades. The simulator as it stands is good, but these tweaks and improvements will make it even better. An intercom system and VATSIM hook-up was also talked about and these are developments we are keen on seeing.

The simulator is located in a small out building and as such space is very limited. It’s incredible that an overhead projection visual system has been so well fitted within the dimension constraints and the actual flight deck fits neatly. Space for spectators though is very limited and access is a short hop from the main flying club building meaning weather and time of day play a factor.

The Venue

The simulator is located at a popular flying school (Leading Edge Flight Training) at Glasgow Airport and is an integral part of Scotland’s 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. The sounds of large jet airliners arriving and departing can be heard in the simulator and was quite a novelty! We feel the signage could be more prominent for simulator customers, as it wasn’t clear if we were in the correct location for the review. The access road has one sign saying ‘flying club’, and it is not until you arrive at the venue that you see Leading Edge Flight Training branding. However, once arrived, parking is easy and plentiful. If arriving from Glasgow Airport’s main terminal, a taxi or car share app only costs a few pounds and is less than a 10 minute journey.

Once inside there is a cosy lounge area in the reception and a few side rooms. The pre-flight briefing is usually delivered in the simulator itself. We have found this set up often detracts from the hands-on flying time, but Leading Edge say that they bear this in mind and the customer always receives the full purchased flight time. There is plenty of room for spectators at the venue, but as mentioned above, not within the simulator. This is catered for by having a large colour TV in reception with a live feed from the simulator ensuring the experience can still be shared, but from the comfort of a leather sofa and cup of coffee in hand!

When considering customers with special needs or reduced mobility, the venue states they are happy to talk in advance or even host a pre-visit should it be required to assess any requirements and will try their utmost to accommodate everyone. There is a shallow ramp from the car park to the main club building. However, the size and raised setting of the simulator, plus the outside building location where the simulator is housed would be a challenge for someone with reduced mobility. Once inside the simulator, there are some obvious adaptations the business have made with mobility considerations in mind. The seat floor rails have plenty of travel and the flight deck centre console is removable to allow
easier access before being reset in position for the session.

Booking is via the website, email or telephone with the majority of their custom from gift experience voucher sites offering a considerable discount on advertised prices – this is how we would recommend purchasing a session. Flying club member access is prioritised and also heavily discounted, which is a nice touch to reward loyalty. Repeat custom is also a significant part of the simulator’s usage (a good sign as to the popularity of the venue), and again, there are special deals for repeat customers. The simulator is available for use 24 hours a day and people can often be found flying at all times of the night!

The Staff and Business

We received a pleasant welcome and within minutes we were chatting with instructors and members who were all airline pilots themselves. Allan was busy in the simulator, but when we met him, we were warmly greeted and had a long conversation comparing ideas, talking about the flight training market and some significant and interesting proposals he has to improve the sector. The business has a flight training background and this is evident in how the simulator is integrated into their day-to-day operations. As we’ve mentioned, their instructors are all airline pilots and within their ranks are an airline Base Captain and another senior airline Training Captain. The majority of their business is flight simulation experience customers, but airline preparation is also catered for and this is where the senior airline instructors are very useful. A large number of sessions are donated as charity auction prizes and is a key indicator as to the character of the business.

Summary

A well-established flying school at Glasgow airport, with a busy general aviation club atmosphere. They have real airline pilots as club members and instructors, so you can be sure of an authentic airline environment. Their B737 simulator has lots of planned upgrades that are already underway and we recommend you look to purchase a gift experience voucher for a simulator session with Leading Edge.Review by Elliott and Alexis, January 2020.

Get in touch with Leading Edge Flight Training

Location
Leading Edge Flight Training, Walkinshaw Rd, Paisley, PA4 9LP, UK
Contact them on
Email : ops@left.aero

Website: left.aero

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Reviewed by simulatorreview.com

Real Simulation

Real Simulation

Real Simulation has perfected the wow factor as you step inside their venue, featuring two unique full motion simulators.

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Real Simulation is a long established business in the simulator world offering something different and unique in the heart of Yorkshire. The venue offers not one, but two full motion simulators as well as a whole host of other eye candy.

What is good

What's not so good

The Simulators

Real Simulation offers two full motion simulators, a Boeing 737-200 and a F4 Phantom fighter jet.  Both machines were built using real aircraft parts and as such are very realistic in look and feel.  In addition, both simulators are mounted on hydraulic, full motion platforms, which is fairly uncommon at their price point in the UK – you would normally only see this on more expensive professional flight training simulators.  Their range of movement is considerable, and as a result, we really felt the aircraft motion, vibrations and simulated forces on the body as we flew around, and had an opportunity to feel how good (or bad) the landing was based on the bump when we touched down!

The Boeing 737-200 flight deck is extremely accurate, with authentic dials and gauges.  This provides a great opportunity to experience airliner flying from a pre glass cockpit era.  The visual system is collimated, which is usually something only found on professional flight simulators, and as a result, you get a very accurate view from the pilots’ seats (collimated means the visual picture is accurately aligned with the pilot’s natural eye position).  Also, there are no visual overlaps, holes or black lines often seen on more typical projected display systems. We must mention, that whilst the simulator is incredibly accurate to fly (the flight controls are some of the most realistic we have experienced anywhere), the visual display system doesn’t feature the same high quality definition or variety of airports that the more modern fixed base simulators that we visited have.  This fair comment should only be considered if visuals are the main factor you are seeking, and this limitation most certainly does not detract from the very realistic flying feel.

The simulator can be programmed for most typical aircraft system failures if you require even more of a challenge, along with different types of weather and wind conditions, and any time of day or night.  As well as the two seats for the pilots, there are a further two jump seats behind, and other seats can be put in to help accommodate further additional spectators, so everyone can enjoy the fun.

The F4 Phantom simulator is not something we have ever seen or experienced anywhere else.  It is made from the front half of a retired real F4 aircraft and mounted on a hydraulic platform for a true full motion experience.  Once seated inside the cockpit, you are enveloped with real instruments and controls, and after the canopy is closed a cover is put over to ensure your immersion is total. There is only space for the pilot in the jet cockpit, so the instructor remains outside and communication is via headset. The visuals are a high density front display, set beyond the cockpit window, which we felt was sufficient for visual flying.  For those who get the hang quickly enough, there is the extreme challenge of an aircraft carrier landing. Spectators can watch from the outside with displays showing a radar style view and lateral & vertical position on the approach path for Aberdeen airport. Having both tried flying the F4 simulator, we were impressed with the motion, feel of the controls and overall experience.

The Venue

The simulators are located in a large aircraft style hangar, in an office park set in typical Yorkshire countryside.  There is plenty of parking right outside the venue.

Once you step inside the wow factor kicks straight in.  There is a reception desk, offices, and briefing rooms to the left, but you can’t fail to be impressed with the simulators arranged in the large space, as well as F1 racing car simulators, model car racing and a Caterham hill climb vehicle surrounding them.  One of the business models Real Simulation focuses on offering is team building days and group bookings. Considering the number of activities under one roof it is clear why they are popular on that front.

In terms of customers with special needs or reduced mobility, the venue will do their utmost to try and accommodate everyone.  The stairs required to access both full motion simulators could be a significant challenge for someone with reduced mobility, but a pre-visit to check and discuss any requirements was not considered a problem in the slightest.

Vouchers can be bought via their website and also by phone.  The company prefers to keep bookings as phone calls only, as it is an opportunity to speak to the customer and see what they might like to do before the day itself.  They periodically offer promotions as they like to keep customer costs low, and decent discounts are given for returning customers.

Each customer is given a 30 minute briefing in the themed briefing rooms next to reception, along with a chance to discuss what they would like to accomplish.  The company is clear that these briefings are in addition to the time in the simulator, so if you paid for an hour, you will be in the simulator for an hour – not something always guaranteed by other venues.

The company also actively encourages group visits and charity events, having worked with local autism charities in the past.  The local air cadets are also frequent visitors.

The Staff and Business

Another of Real Simulation’s strengths is its pool of instructors, who are all very experienced and have had long careers in aviation.  They include ex-airline pilots, CAA instructors, and Red Arrows/RAF pilots. The friendly reception and knowledgeable insight we had during our visit and tour with Adrian was clearly a sign of a venue who knows its business, customers and how to provide a fantastic simulation experience.

Summary

When so many other venues are offering Boeing 737NG fixed based simulators, it is refreshing to see Real Simulation offering something we feel is unique – two full motion simulators featuring iconic, classic aircraft.  If you really want to experience realistic flight controls and full motion, then there are few other places you can go, and you can be certain of a warm Yorkshire welcome.

Get in touch with Real Simulation

Location
The Smithy, Haggs Farm Business Park, Haggs Road, Follifoot, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG3 1EQ, UK
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Reviewed by simulatorreview.com

Simfest

Simfest

This simulator represents the gold standard of flight simulation. Its functionality and realism is second-to-none – we even feel that motion wouldn’t actually make any difference to the amazing experience.

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Simfest is a private fixed base B747-400 simulator with a heavy focus on charitable fundraising and connected worldwide flying. It is quite possibly the most realistic fixed base simulator ever made, due to the incredible system functionality, extremely high quality and collimated visual displays, rumble motion and use of real aircraft parts.

What is good

What's not so good

The Simulators

The simulator is a fixed base Boeing 747-400, with the systems and operation heavily modelled on British Airways’ aircraft of the same type. It features a ‘whole’ B747 flightdeck, with an amazing level of accuracy and authenticity – largely due to the owner making maximum use of real aircraft parts. The flight dynamics are close to the actual aircraft (we’ve previously flown the B747-400 full motion simulator at British Airways Flight Training) and the control loading and feel of the controls are pretty good. It’s hard to replicate control feel without huge financial means and I would say the tiller for taxying and control column feel are accurate, but limited in realism due to the nature of the simulator. It is clear there has been real airline pilot input/feedback.

Shortly after the visit, the visuals underwent a huge modification and are now collimated. This means that they are aligned with each pilot’s viewpoint and eliminates the feeling the aircraft is skidding when taxying on the ground or the need for a screen aiming point when landing. Scenery is very realistic and the frame rates are very smooth. There is a lot of worldwide special scenery and terrain mesh – it’s clear this simulator is built for worldwide flying.

The systems are accurately simulated and their controls are more often than not actual panels from a B747 and instruments that have been painstakingly reverse engineered for use with the simulator. This is from the MCP (autopilot controls) right through to the actual aircraft seats and flightdeck doors. As previously mentioned, there is a heavy British Airways bias (no bad thing!) and many of the specific company functions are impressively simulated. The simulator is fully connected to the internet and makes the most of video, sound, weather, flight schedules and virtual ATC environments.

The Venue​

The simulator is housed in an outbuilding at a private residence. As you walk into the building, you are greeted by a Boeing 707 galley, banks of awesome computing power and aircraft parts, with a small relaxation area upstairs for those longer simulated flights. As you step through the flightdeck door, you are fully immersed in the B747-400 flightdeck and you quickly forget where you actually are. You can view a livestream from Simfest’s website.

The Staff and Business

I was warmly welcomed by the owner, who is surprisingly young and clearly extremely talented, having built this incredible simulator himself with a little help from his friends. He’s an obvious enthusiast, who is well researched and knowledgeable – he taught me (a current airline pilot) how to fly and operate a B747. The simulator is private, but very much in the public arena with its charitable work. It is the centre piece in many public virtual world events on the internet and raised £32,000 for charity in just 7 days during ‘Worldflight’ in 2019.

Gallery

Summary

This simulator represents the gold standard of flight simulation. Its functionality and realism is second-to-none – we even feel that motion wouldn’t actually make any difference to the amazing experience. It’s a shame the venue is private – you’ll just have to watch along on Twitch TV – give generously!

Review by Elliott, February 2018.

Get in touch with Simfest

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Reviewed by simulatorreview.com

Deeside Flight Simulators

Deeside Flight Simulators

deeside

A well established and professional venue, with the unique ability to offer a choice of three high quality and very realistic simulators to fly.

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Deeside have a unique position in the flight simulator market – that is they’re able to offer both a fixed and rotary wing experience. During our visit we were able to look at all three simulators, but with it being such a busy venue we were unable to have an opportunity to put the machines through their paces – perhaps during another visit!

What is good

What's not so good

The Simulators

The Boeing 737-800 simulator started life as a real B737-300 flying for airlines including British Airways. With some ingenious modification and some clever know how, this now operates as a fully functional next generation B737 fixed base simulator. There are some minor differences between the simulator and the actual aircraft, but it would be a tough challenge for the untrained eye to spot these. The Airbus A320 simulator had a previous life flying the skies for Alitalia as an Airbus A321. What this means is both simulators are incredibly realistic and accurate in terms of their functionality and layout, with a considerable amount of real aircraft parts – although we did spot some Airbus A300 seats! Both simulators have a cabin section, which we really like to see attached to a fixed base simulator, further adding to the experience and realism of flying a jet airliner. We’d like to have tried the simulators and feel how they fly, but as we’ve indicated, time was short and the venue busy – the sign of a good product!

Both simulator visual displays were a wrap around style and produced high quality scenery and weather effects. We would like to have seen both simulators with collimated* visual displays (*filtered display system to align the view out of the window with the eyeline of each pilot/seat.), but this is usually found in multi-million dollar professional flight training simulators and extremely rare in this market. It’s an expensive option, but something we feel would further truly mark the simulators apart from the competition. We didn’t get to test the sounds and visuals as much as we’d have liked, but we shall return and update the review in the future.

System functionality was very good for both aircraft, in particular the fully functioning circuit breaker panels. When asked about this, the business owners indicated that they’re looking to certify the simulators with the CAA (an expensive and time consuming undertaking) in order to provide official flight training on their hardware. This alone is testament enough as to the realism the simulators and venue are keen to provide.

The helicopter simulator features an actual fuselage section of an Agusta 109. The flight deck has been reworked to provide a ‘glass-style’ cockpit environment, plus spectators can enjoy the experience sitting behind the pilots in the relative luxury of a private helicopter cabin. The wrap around visuals were also excellent and we feel this is an excellent and hopefully very popular addition to the Deeside fleet. Again, we weren’t able to try the simulator, but it’s on our to do list and we shall update further.

The Venue

The venue has good accessibility by being located close to major roads. It was a little tricky to find due to it being sited on an industrial estate and signage was limited. We found parking to be plentiful, despite it being busy, and there were even some disabled spaces available. On the subject of facilities, it was refreshing to see a venue that has dedicated some proper thought into catering for everyone. There is an accessible toilet at the venue, wide doors and ramps to all simulators. Obviously, a degree of mobility is required due to the nature of the activity, but the staff were very willing to discuss anyone’s needs and do their best to adapt and cater – very commendable.

The business has a front reception, briefing rooms, a learning station on the way to the main simulators, toilets, a refreshment area, sofas, wifi, as well as excellent cabin sections which can seat and allow a moderately sized group to participate in the simulation. Visit the homepage of their website for a virtual walk around of their facilities.

Booking functionality is fantastic and can be through the website or over the phone/via email with reception. Purchased ‘flight-time’ is assured to be spent hands-on in the simulator and offers can often be found both on their website or with popular voucher/experience sites. Specialised courses are offered as well as simple hire of the simulators, and extras such as video recording can be purchased.

The Staff and Business

The overall impression Deeside Flight Simulators gave us, was one of experience and professionalism – from the greeting at reception to the tour and information we received when visiting. The staff were uniformed and very knowledgeable, and there were even some current and ex-airline pilots amongst their group. The minimum age for the experience is 12 due to the complex nature of the activity and it was good to hear they support local charities – a sign we like to see that indicates the character of the business and its owners.

Summary

A well established and professional venue, with the unique ability to offer a choice of three high quality and very realistic simulators to fly. You can be sure of a top level simulation experience and even qualified commercial pilots would find the simulators at Deeside very credible.

Review by Elliott and Alexis, November 2019.

Get in touch with Deeside Flight Simulators

Location
Unit 18, North Road, Ellesmere Port, CH65 1AE, UK
Categories
Reviewed by simulatorreview.com

737 Pro

737 Pro

737pro

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.

What is good

What's not so good

Venue Update

On October 21, 2020 Elliott and Alexis visited 737 Pro again to see what changes they have been working on and to gather some video footage. Please see the update-section below by clicking here.

The Simulators

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 Venue

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.

The Staff and Business

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.

Summary

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.

Review by Elliott and Alexis, November 2019.

Follow-up Visit and Updates

Updates from our visit back in November 2019 include:
  • as part of your booking there is an impressive briefing video. There is a lot of material there that perhaps might be a bit much for a novice to all take-in. But don’t worry about this, your instructor will highlight the main points to focus on. Particular topics covered include an overview of principles of flight (how planes fly), airframe development and history and a look at each key aircraft system;
  • the yoke control has been linked to directional control of the aircraft on the ground. So instead of steering the 737 with a tiller and rudder pedals, the yoke is turned in the appropriate direction. This of course isn’t how the real aircraft works, but we can see for the beginner this will probably make taxing and control on the runway easier. However, for the more experienced flight simulator user this may cause some confusion; and
  • there is a new overhead panel, providing additional realism for the simulator with improved switch feel and operation.
December 2020: we see from 737 Pro’s website they now have a new VR simulator, the Air Combat Pro. They write “We are proud to introduce the UK’s first and only twin, full-motion, Virtual Reality Fighter Jet Simulator that is open to the public”.

Get in touch with 737 Pro

Location
737 Pro
Westair Hangar 8
Blackpool Airport
Lancashire, FY4 2QY
Contact them on

Website : www.737pro.com