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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.