A little while ago I got to check out an actual flight simulator. Nope, not a game you run on your PC. And no, not a homebrew rig built by some insane hobbyist in the guest room (pissing off his wife in the process). I’m talking about the real goddamned deal – an actual, honest-to-goodness flight simulator for the Airbus A320. Yup, a fancy-schmancy, eye-wateringly expensive piece of kit airline pilots train on.
So of course, I wrote about the CAE Series 5000 in Stuff India’s April 2016 issue. I’m also pasting a small excerpt here for you lazy buggers who never picked up a copy at the stands. You can also head over to the Stuff India website to read the online version.
“…You’ll find this Series 5000, along with two of its compatriots (an even fancier, even more expensive Series 7000 is slated to arrive soon), at the CAE Simulation Training Pvt. Ltd. facility in Greater Noida. Designated a ‘Level D’ or ‘Full ‘, flight simulator, the Series 5000 models the Airbus A320 flying experience down to the minutest bit of detail There’s no indication whatsoever that you aren’t in the cockpit of a real airliner, and it’s so realistic that a session aboard the Series 5000 counts as Zero Flight Time Training, the closest a pilot can get to real flying without taking an A320 up into the air.
ENCOUNTERING THE SERIES 5000
Walk into the simulator bay at the CAE facility and a trio of alien-looking pods loom up, looking like otherworldly creatures here to take over planet Earth. From the bulbous cockpit, to the electro-mechanical legs, to the distant whine of simulated jet engines, punctuated only by a Series 5000’s movement as the pilots inside encounter bad weather, it all feels like something out of a science-fiction movie.
Rather fitting when you think about all the cutting-edge technology involved in recreating this realistic illusion of flight right here on terra firma.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO FLY ONE OF THESE
It takes years of hard work before you’re trusted with flying a few hundred people thousands of feet up in the air, inside a metal tube powered by tonnes of highly flammable fuel. Which is why we leapt at the chance to sit through a flight in the cockpit of a virtual A320…
All set for take-off, our instructor pushes the throttles forward, and we’re on our way. Sceptical about how realistic the Series 5000’s motion is? Don’t be. Combined with the sound and the visual cues, our brains are fooled into thinking we’re accelerating past a few hundred knots as we soar up into the air.
Taking gentle turns over Delhi, traffic visible on the roads below us, with the occasional jerk as we hit a patch of bad weather, it’s easy to believe we’re out for a joyride in a real Airbus. Going in to land, the ground proximity warning goes off as the landing gear’s not engaged. That’s fixed, and as we come in, a voice alert counts out our altitude. We touch down with a thud and gently roll to a stop. Of course, we also took a turn behind the controls. How did that go? Let’s just say nobody’s gonna be hiring us as pilots for a while…”