It just so happens that our friend Greg is a private pilot, and when he’s not flying CEO’s around the country, he teaches aviation training at Flight Safety International—which happened to be located at the airport just down the road from where we were staying. He offered to show us around the hangar that’s home to the airplane he flies, as well as the simulation systems he uses to teach, and we jumped at the chance. Considering the price one usually has to pay to book time on one of the simulators, we felt pretty fortunate to have after-hours access all to ourselves.
Our first stop was to the large hangar that was home to 3 corporate jets, one of which was owned by the company Greg works for. For the most part, the plane was used by a CEO and his family, and Greg and a couple other pilots fly it as the need arises. We were able to get a personal tour of the entire inside, and I snapped a few photos of the boys sitting in the lap of luxury.
We also learned that the plane was fitted with a HUD, which was a small pane of glass that flipped down in front of the pilot’s face, and keys stats were projected onto it. While Greg was powering everything up and turning all of the electronics on, the boys and I checked out the main cabin, from the fold-out TV screens to the comfy seats—which held 10 passengers—everything had a very nice executive vibe about it, without being over the top. It was pretty sweet!
After getting a tour of both the inside and outside of the place, we returned the hangar to its original dark self, hopped in the truck, and headed over to the simulators next door.
The facility housed 16 high-end flight simulators—high-end as in top-of-the-line, fully immersive, you-feel-like-you’re-flying, high-end—the experience was surreal! Before the REAL simulator, we took a quick look at the graphical simulators, where you sit in front of a handful of flatscreen monitors that are displayed in a cross formation, representing the general layout of a cockpit. All of the screens were touch-sensitive, and you could program all sorts of details: the layout for various aircraft cockpits, simulate emergency conditions etc. It was pretty slick. But it PALED in comparison to using the actual simulator. Onward!
The simulator we used—a Bombardier Challenger 605—was a newer one, and it was amazingly realistic. Both Mr. T, Mr. S and myself took turns flying around and then landing the plane. We picked the San Francisco airport as our landing destination, and got to fly around the Bay area for awhile. It was ridiculously fun, the kind of fun that puts a permanent smile on your face. The graphics and control response were amazing and immersive, the motion of the simulator was so responsive it made Mr. T a little nauseous sitting in the back while he was waiting his turn :)
Greg sat in the main pilot’s seat the whole time and setup all of the controls and got the plane off the ground and flying steady, then whoever was going to fly sat in the co-pilot seat and took the controls when they were ready. I went first, and after flying around for awhile, grinning and taking in the faux scenery, he had me land under foggy, zero-visibility conditions using just the instrumentation. It was awesome! And the landing was smooth with no issues.
Mr. T went next, and he adapted to the controls immediately, and had fun flying around before he also landed smoothly, under nice and sunny conditions.
Then Mr. S had his turn, and also had fun flying around, although we did have to adjust the trim on the controls, so they were easier for him to maneuver. They’re really sensitive to your inputs, and you need to have a sturdy grip to push and pull as you fly around. But once the adjustments were made, he was much more at ease, and also landed perfectly without incident. Greg said they were both naturals, and we joked that it was all of the Xbox practice they’ve had to endure :)
At the end of the night, we all had a blast, and we’re super grateful for Greg taking some time to show us how cool flying an airplane can be.