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markadeane

Trip Report - Level-D 744 Simulator (LONG post!)

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Gents (and ladies?)I thought I might share with you an experience I had this weekend just gone. Please excuse the length, there's a lot to describe here!Most of you will know one of our fellow forum members cowpatz aka Steve. Steve and I had become acquainted as beta testers for the excellent PMDG744 FS2Crew add-on. Recently he was so kind as to invite me to sit in on one of his scheduled Level-D sim sessions at the Air NZ Simulator base in Auckland.On arrival at Auckland our first stop was at the flight dispatch office. This is where the Air NZ crews meet an hour before departure to go over the details of their trip before heading out to the aircraft. The briefing process is in part a computerised affair. All the scheduled flights appear on the left-hand side of a PC screen. The crew select their flight, and from there they have access to the route information, the preliminary loadsheet for the aircraft and of course the fuel requirements. Anyone who uses FSBuild would feel quite at home with the flightplan, which is presented in a very similar format. A particularly neat feature is the fuel order screen, the fuel requirements can be completed here and sent through to the ground crew to speed up the fuel loading.From here we headed down the road to the training and simulator office. As we were early we completed security formalities and then went for a brief walk around the maintenance base. Having never been inside a hangar large enough to hold a few 747's I was staggered by the size, they really are huge! On the day in question a 737-300 was in for a D check, sadly no 747's to get up close and personal with though, maybe another time. The workshops handle a range of specialist tasks such as metalworking, composite strucutre maintenance and repair and engine maintenance. All in all a fascinating look around.From there it was back to the training room where Steve and his assigned captain, Gerrad, met with the sim instructor to go over the brief for the sim session. Shortly thereafter we boarded the sim. My first impression was one of familiarity, the dimensions of the flight deck and the perspective are VERY well represented on the PMDG VC. As Steve and Gerrad carried out their preflight flow, I took up station in the forward observer seat. (the one you can see behind and between the flight crew seats)Bob, the sim instructor, was immediately to my left, and throughout the session, he kept me informed of the upcoming failures and events he would be triggering. With the lights down low, we commenced pushback and engine start. From there it was out towards the holding point for 23L at Auckland. This is the point where you realise why a level-d simulator costs so much, the subtle bumps and judders of the taxiway and the swaying of the aircraft as you enter the turns is quite amazing. Anyone who operates FS2Crew would have felt right at home with the procedures too, the dialogue is well captured in the add-on and at times I almost caught myself responding! (I managed not to though, it would have been a bit embarrassing) Runway entry procedures were completed and we found ourselves lined up and ready to go. As the thrust levers pass 70% N1 the aircraft starts to quiver and shake, with the TOGA switches pressed, the aircraft starts to roll and the sense of acceleration is amazing! AWESOME!However, this was no mere joyride, at least not for the crew. As a bona fide training session, the first abnormality was just moments away. With the aircraft airborne, we struck windshear! Man, the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach was there alright. The thrust levers are pushed fully forward and Steve reads off the heights on the radar altimeter as we come within 80 feet of terra firma before climbing away. I was watching the speed tape when we hit and it must have dropped 30 or so knots, a bit unnerving but well handled!Shortly after that little mishap was sorted out, it came time to raise the flaps. Surprise surprise: Flap malfunction!This one is a bit less hectic and so the QRH came out. In most examples I observed, the QRH starts with the various conditions that must exist for the given procedure to be applicable. The crew both have to agree on the criteria being met before proceeding. Each step is verified and carried out in a very deliberate fashion.I could go on for pages about the experience, but I'll spare you the details!The other failures handled were:- Turbulence- Eng fail in the cruise (High EGT I think it was) followed by a return to Auckland- Fuel dump- 3 eng ILS APP/Land (a number of these were done throughout the flight)- 2 engine approach and then a Go Around! (this one was REALLY fun! Talk about full rudder application!) Tea break - well deserved by the guys in the front seats!- Start fault- FMC/FGS malfunction (most interesting, the absence of the FMC REALLY increases the workload)- Cargo fire- GPWS warning- NDB App/landI was REALLY surprised just how calm and composed the QRH procedures are. No mad dashing for the fire handles or yelling commands at each other as the aircraft staggers into the air. It's all done in a very composed and careful fashion.The overwhelming impression I got was that flying the queen isn't the really tricky part, handling the pressure of everything going wrong at the worst time is why this plane is the preserve of the truly 'seasoned hands' amongst us. For those of you who haven't done so, ACTIVATE THOSE FAILURES! The true depth of the PMDG sim is hidden in there. Plus you'll be a much better sim pilot for getting to grips with one 'sim session' of your own every few months.Regrets? The biggy was leaving my camera in Steve's car, so sadly no pics on this occasion. The only other thing (and believe me I'm NOT complaining) was not having a go at it myself, but to be fair the guys had a long day and I wasn't about to put them through another 20 minutes of sitting in the box! Who knows, maybe next time. :-)Once all was wrapped up Steve and I enjoyed a few beers at a nearby bar and a chat about the state of simming in general. Easily the most pleasant part of the day, it was nice to have a chance to step away from the PC and have a face to face chat with a fellow enthusiast, especially one that has provided such a large body of knowledge to the community here. If you ever get a chance to do this, I recommend it!I think I've written quite enough now. My utmost gratitude to Steve for arranging my access for the day, it was a real treat and a seriously enjoyable experience mate, I owe you more than a few drinks for this one!I've also been inspired to write up some wiki articles on how to handle some of the more common emergencies available in the PMDG model. Watch this space!Cheers.


Mark Adeane - NZWN
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Nice report of the simulator session! Insteresting to learn how realistic it is.Can't wait to see the wiki articles! :)Best Regards,Patrick McDonagh

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Thanks for the fascinating report, Mark. It was very kind of Steve to arrange it too.Great stuffRegardsRudy


Rudy Fidao

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Sadly no! I left my camera in the car and only realised once we were going into the sim. Suffice to say it looks VERY familiar to the VC viewpoint. It was kind of strange to sit in a physical space and be quite at home with the sights and sounds, having never been there before!


Mark Adeane - NZWN
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I am curious how the sim session fits into the two pilots training, reqirements etc,Mike

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Steve can step in to correct me if I'm wrong here, but I understand that it's a 6-monthly affair, two sim sessions. I attended the first session which is something of a review/recurrency session and is a more informal affair than the second one. The pairing of Captain and First Officer is the same on the two days. Hope that helps?


Mark Adeane - NZWN
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