What's like like to fly a full motion Airbus A320 simulator?
I learned last week when I joined two Frontier Airlines pilots to spend one hour in the carrier's new A320 simulator near Denver International Airport. I sat in the left seat and practiced my takeoffs and landings.
My cockpit knowledge is limited. I was there more to have fun than to learn how to fly. But I was struck by how realistic everything is. You feel like you're actually in the cockpit.
Here's some of what I saw and learned.
We picked up our aircraft at the gate at Denver International Airport. I put on my seatbelt - you need it in the simulator, since it moves a lot - and we were ready to go. They let me have the left seat - the captain's chair.
In the interest of time, we skipped a lot of the official stuff - we had no checklists to go through - so we were quickly read to push back. These two ramp employees in the tug took great care of us. We were Frontier Flight 1.
On the way to the runway, we passed some other Frontier aircraft. All had the airline's old paint job, though. I had some trouble steering the aircraft on the ground - it's not as easy as it looks - but we made our way as best as we could. [It probably didn't help that I took some pictures while steering.]
Soon, we were ready for takeoff. I think it was my fault that we weren't centered on the runway.
Soon, we rotated and we were airborne above farmland near Denver's airport. I took some turns and got a feel for the aircraft. At altitude, the graphics aren't as impressive as at the airport. But my pilot trainers said this isn't a big deal. Most of the stuff pilots practice, they said, requires that have little to no visibility. During training at cruising altitude, they're not spending much time looking out the window. Below, we're flying through some clouds.
The real pilots then decided to plug in some thunderstorms to the computer system, so we flew to avoid the bad weather. As you might expect, the red stuff below is the worst weather.
Next, the pilots showed me the auto land feature. Pilots don't often use it in good weather, my trainers said, but it is effective. This landing is far smoother than the one I attempted later. Luckily, there's no video of my bumpy landing.
Finally, we took off again and buzzed the airport. This is not at all standard operating procedure. We did it for fun.
Do you like this blog? I'd like to connect with you. You can write to me directly using this link, which goes straight to my email. Of if you prefer, you can follow me on social media.
Want more content? Try these stories.