“In the later part of the evening and occasionally into the wee hours of the morning, a hearty group of individuals - most of them seemingly rational, grown men and women with professional daytime jobs - sit perched in front of computer monitors with sweaty palms tightly clenching flight yokes. Distant cries of "Honey, come to bed" have long since fallen on deaf ears as, with razor-sharp concentration, these virtual airmen skilfully guide their chosen aircraft down glide paths to airports across the world. The late night silence is shattered by screeches of virtual rubber on the runway immediately followed by the deafening whine of reverse engine thrusters and finally a sign of relief from the flight deck - also known, in many instances as a desk! “
Why do we enjoy flight simulator?
Is it the technical challenge learning integrated computer generated management systems, or the enjoyment of landing a virtual jetliner on a runway in limited visibility and a crosswind. Perhaps it’s the perception of travelling to far flung locations that you probably would never visit, or maybe it’s the enjoyment received from constructing something from nothing (a flight deck).
Which Aircraft Today - Basic Airmanship
There are many people very happy messing about with whatever they are flying. Some will be using home computers and a joystick, others small generic style flight decks – all will have, to some degree, a level of airmanship.
Whatever level, every individual will require at some point instruction in “how to fly” and "how to use the various avionics and instrumentation" - more so in B737 than a Cessna 172.
Flight Training –Remove Automation
A high-end simulator is a substantial investment both in time and funds. Therefore, to obtain the best “Bang for Buck” as the Americans say, it’s more satisfying to accomplish a flight the correct way rather than the wrong way. The B737 has numerous interfacing flight management systems and it’s important to understand what these systems do and how they interact with each other in certain phases of flight.
Flying the B737 in auto pilot mode is not difficult; the Flight Management System (FMS) does most of calculations and work for you and if you use autoland - well what else is there to do but watch. But flying this way can be counterintuitive as you don’t really have full control of the aircraft; to fully appreciate the aircraft for what it is, you must deactivate the auto pilot and other automation and fly “hands on”.
Once the automation is deactivated, task levels multiply as several layers of information present themselves; information that must be assimilated quickly to enable correct decisions to made. There's little room for second guessing and you must have a good working knowledge of how the various flight controls and systems interact with each other. Add to this, inclement "virtual" weather, limited visibility, navigational challenges, landing approaches, charts, STARS, NDBS, VORS and a crosswind, and you'll find you have a lot to do in a relatively short space of time; if you want to land your virtual airliner in one piece. And, this is not mentioning your pet dog nuzzling your leg wanting immediate attention or your girlfriend querying why the dirty dinner dishes haven't be washed!!
A lot of information is readily obtainable from technical publications, on-line sources, and from the content of forums. There are several excellent texts available that go into depth regarding the technical aspects of the B737 and cover off on a lot of the topics a real and virtual pilot may need to know (I will be looking at a few of them in future posts). But, for the most part these texts are technical in nature and are do not include the "how to" of flight training.
One very good source of information is the B737 Flight Crew Operations Manual (FCOM).
LEFT: A page scanned from the B737-800 FCOM. Whilst such books contain a lot of information, they rely on the reader to already have a good understanding of the B737 systems.
Tutorials - PMDG
Two “how to” tutorials written by Tom Metzinger and Fred Clausen are in circulation. These tutorials deal with the Precision Manuals Development Group (PMDG) B737 NG. These tutorials provide an excellent basis to learning how to fly the B737 and what you need to do during certain phases of flight. Two further tutorials are available for the B737 NGX, however, they are not freely obtainable unless you have purchased the PMDG B737 NGX software package.
Fred Clausen's tutorial can be downloaded from this site in the Training & Documents section.
That Nagging Feeling……Correct or incorrect ?
Despite the books, tutorials and manuals, there's always that nagging feeling that something has not been covered, is incorrect, or has been misunderstood. We all have heard the saying “there are several ways to skin a cat”; flying is no different. A B737 line instructor informed me that there is "a huge amount of technique allowed when flying the B737". "There are certainly wrong ways to do things; but, there is often no single right way to do something". Often the method selected is not at the discretion of the pilot flying, but more the decision of airline management, company policies and ATC.
Visit any FS forum and you will quickly realize that many virtual flyers do things differently. So where does this leave the individual who wants to learn the correct way?
Short of enrolling into a real flight class, which is time consuming, very expensive and a little “over the top” for a hobby, the next option is to investigate various on-line training schools. To my knowledge, there aren’t many formal style training classes available that provide training in the B737.
Angle of Attack Flight Training (AoA)
Angle of Attack has developed a reasonably priced and thorough training program that incorporates ground, line and flight training for a number of differing aircraft types. Only recently has AoA completed their B737 ground and flight training video presentations, in what amounts to many hours of valuable training.
Much of the training material is presented in video format which can either be downloaded to your computer, mobile device or viewed on-line. The content of the videos is very high resolution, well structured, professionally narrated, easy to follow, and most importantly – interesting and informative.
HD Video, Tutorials, Flows & Checklists for all B737 Systems
AoA have followed the real-world aviation industry standard by providing a lot of system training using "flows". A flow is a animated diagram showing step by step the correct method of doing something. In many instances a .pdf document can be downloaded to provide a "memory jogger" for you to replicate the flow when in the simulator.
Many of the training videos build upon knowledge already gained from texts such as the Flight Crew Operations Manual (FCOM), and the use of video as oppossed to only reading, provides a differing method of education which helps you to develop a greater understanding.
Video flight tutorials which take you through from pushback to shutdown and demonstrate the correct procedure for conducting a flight.
AoA only provides training for the B737 NGX, however, much of the material is backwards compatible with the B737 NG series airframes. The video training utilises the 737 NGX model produced by Precision Manuals Development Group (PMDG) and does not use a real aircraft.
Despite these two shortcomings (NGX & not a real aircraft), the training offered is exceptional, one of a kind, and in my opinion reasonably priced.
Below is short video produced by AoA pertaining to the Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS). Navigate to the Angle of Attack website for further information.
Thank you to AoA for allowing use of this video.