Peter Morrell takes control of a Boeing 737-800 at Flight Experience London and finds out just how skillful pilots really are
If you have ever wondered what was going on in the cockpit of a modern jet as you relax at the back with a gin and tonic then you now have the chance to find out for yourself.
Flight Experience London offers a range of flight simulator experiences that will give you a unique insight into what happens in the cockpit during take-off and landing.
I visited Flight Experience London recently to try my hand at flying a Boeing 737-800. The simulator is in a smart, modern building a few minutes stroll from East Putney Tube station. On arrival you watch a short video which is an introduction to the actual simulator experience itself.
The simulator is a replica of a full size Boeing 737-800 cockpit made with genuine parts and it’s been officially approved by Boeing. My lesson started with my highly enthusiast instructor describing the controls, switches and displays, and there were a lot of them.
I learnt about the throttle which controls engine speed, the flaps which give extra lift during take off and landing, ascending and turning with the yoke, how to raise and lower the landing gear, the rudder pedals for steering under power on the ground and the trim which assists stable flight and maintains the aircraft’s centre of gravity.
Sat at the end of the runway at Heathrow with very realistic looking terrain in front of me was highly exciting. I wound the engines up to 4000RPM, pressed a black button on the throttle and we rapidly gained speed. At the command V1 from the pilot indicating take-off speed had been reached I pulled back on the yoke watching the artificial horizon indicator showing a 15 degree climb and my heart skipped a beat as we became airborne.
It was a busy time just after take-off, the flaps were retracted and the landing gear raised. We were going to fly around the airport and land back at Heathrow. With Battersea Power station and Canary Wharf ahead we made our final turn into the landing.
Again there were flaps to extend, engine speed to set and landing gear to lower. A voice in the cockpit counted down the altitude, at 30 feet above the runway I cut the engines, pulled the yoke back half an inch and once on the ground engaged reverse thrust to slow down. Even this little flight had been a thrilling and exhilarating experience. I had found myself totally concentrating on all the controls and felt comfortable with my understanding of them.
Travelling across the world we were then sat on the tarmac of Hong Kong International and would be making the notoriously difficult landing at Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong harbour. This was a lot more tricky, having to make a sharp right turn just before a block of flats. I managed to land OK but then committed my only faux pas, running over the grass on the taxi way.
After what I can only describe as a unique and rewarding experience I spoke with co-founder Nick Taylor about Flight Experience London. He outlined the various flight experiences that were available, you can fly from London to Paris for example or do a segment of a long haul route. There is is also a fly/dine package run in conjunction with a local restaurant.
For the nervous traveller there is a fear of flying course which includes a consultation with a therapist to get to the root cause of the problem.
Corporate events and team building exercises are popular with the possibility of a ‘Pilot Down’ scenario where you have to land on your own using an emergency phone for instructions.
The simulator is also available for more serious flyers who may use it as a primer before applying for a job in the aviation industry or for professional pilots preparing for their annual assessment. I flew in clear, still conditions but the simulator can create many different problems like multi-level cloud formations and even an engine fire. Flight Experience London will soon be taking delivery of an Airbus 320 simulator which will increase the facility’s appeal to even more people.
I thought that this was a superb experience and found it thoroughly absorbing, gift vouchers are available so it would make an ideal gift for older children and anyone who was curious about the mysteries of flying.
For more information and to book go to
Flight Experience London
129 Upper Richmond Road
London. SW15 2TX.
Telephone 020 300 40616