What I mean is, I, Laura, got to fly a plane over the island of Manhattan!!!
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the real Manhattan, and maybe it was just a simulation, but the instructor was still pretty pissed when I narrowly missed the Statue of Liberty!
To explain: while en route to Orlando for training, my new manager called me with an interesting proposition: how would I like to try out the flight simulator used for pilot training? I told him I would love to, and we arranged to meet at the training facility at 4 PM. This gave me the afternoon to
work out lie by the pool and try to catch some sun. The sun didn’t last too long, though, and I arrived at the training facility in the midst of a big rainstorm – I could see fairly large hailstones hitting the ground, which was already an experience for me since I had never seen hail before. Arriving in the lobby, I settled in to wait for my new manager. The trainer came down from his office to let me know that he heard my manager was arriving late, but that I should just call his direct extension when my manager arrived. “The simulator is all set and sitting on the runway waiting for you… it should be a good time!” On the runway? Now I was totally pumped.
As it turned out, the simulator was basically just the cockpit of a plane (an Airbus 320 – huge plane!) in the middle of this huge warehouse-y hangar. It was attached to hydraulic systems that would tilt, raise, lower, and kind of “fly” the cockpit around the room so that when you were inside, you would get the sensation of flying. It TOTALLY worked! Once inside the cockpit, the trainer turned on the video screens that were just outside the windows, and I swear I could NOT tell that we weren’t in an actual cockpit on a plane at JFK (though the trainer also told us we could pick any airport we wanted – he had simulations for the runways of all the major airports).
By the end, I could take off (with some help) and fly on my own (yes, without the autopilot!); landing, I left to the autolanding mechanism. I flew at night, at dawn, at dusk, in the daytime, and even in a low visibility snowstorm. One of the coolest things was because it’s a simulator, we obviously didn’t have to worry about restricted airspace… so we spent some time dodging the skyscrapers in Manhattan. No crashes – the closest we came was the aforementioned Statue of Liberty diversion, where the trainer was telling me to go straight for Lady Liberty, low to the water, and then try banking around it at the last minute (to test my turning skills). I made it just fine, but apparently I waited too long to bank comfortably and without fear of crashing 🙂
It was so ridiculously awesome, and a total once-in-a-lifetime experience! It was the first time my manager had done the simulator, and he said no one in the office had done it before either – they’re apparently going to be jealous when I meet them. So much for a good first impression!
I think I’m going to like this job 🙂