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Not Your Average Flight Simulators

By Mike Davenport, EAA 89102, Langley, British Columbia

February 2020 - As a baby boomer, I've not had too many encounters with flight simulators. One I do recall, however, was an early Microsoft product and so primitive that I quickly lost interest. I do understand that they have been improved, but probably still aren't as good as two others that I got to play with that were just a little more sophisticated and did force me to focus.

It was 1987 at Vancouver International (YVR). I had been collecting frequent flyer miles for some time as a business traveller on my favourite airline, Canadian Pacific Airlines, when they put a ride on their Boeing 747-200 simulator unit up for points. I couldn't book that soon enough! What could be more exciting to a private pilot with fewer than 300 hours in his logbook than to get to play with the grownups? Their advertising people called with a special request: They wondered if I would agree to have the CBC interview me during and after the fact. Of course, I said yes.

George Zuk was my instructor pilot and Anne from CBC Radio was on hand to record this epic for posterity. The original plan was to take about 30 to 45 minutes, mainly to record the event for CBC, but as things turned out we were there flying approaches for two hours. George kept adding different weather to the flights just to keep up the interest. We had turbulence, rain, icing, and crosswinds to add spice to the morning. All of this was carefully documented in my logbook as "orientation and instruction" and "time certified correct." I had more fun than I could have imagined. Within weeks, Canadian Pacific was absorbed into another airline, but I doubt that my sim time had any impact on that!


Me in the 747 simulator.

The second ride, years later but also at YVR, proved to be equally exciting. I shared this ride with two longtime friends, hosted by an Air Canada pilot who probably should remain nameless as full disclosure could impact his pension.

This time it was once again a Boeing simulator, one that did double duty for the B757 and the B767, and through the miracle of reset we did approaches into YVR over and over again. I do recall the instructor laughing hysterically as I did a "taildragger" approach, touched down just on the numbers and then got on the brakes so hard that we almost made the first turnoff. I think the nose wheel was on the grass, but because it was the simulator we didn't get stuck. The computers did get a little upset but that is the joy of a simulator — just hit reset.


My friends Werner Griesbeck, Danny Holliday, and I on a 757/767 sim.

Both of these "trips" were not only fun, but actually educational as we all learned just how much we didn't know about someone else's job.

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