In early November, I had the opportunity to try out the full flight simulator (FFS) of a Boeing 737NG at the facilities of BAA Training- one of Europe’s largest independent flight training centers. The experience, which consisted of a “pre-flight” briefing, a safety briefing, and about 30 minutes of flight time, lasted a total of one hour. This is the “flight” review of that experience.
BAA Training’s facilities in Vilnius include full flight simulators for the Boeing 737 Classic, 737NG, and Airbus A320, with more on the way. Photo: Chris Loh | Simple Flying
Booking a session
First, let’s go over some background about how this experience came about. It actually started as a birthday gift from my wife, given to me last year, delivered in the form of an “entertainment flight” certificate purchased online through Lithuanian company Gera Dovana. Unfortunately, local and national pandemic lockdowns prevented me from making use of this “entertainment flight” until recently.
“As soon as the training center in Vilnius (which currently operates two Boeing and two Airbus family full flight simulators) started its operations, we received many requests to launch fun flights,”notes Kristina Valaitytė, BAA Training’s Director of Marketing.
After a few attempts to make a booking, I was finally able to secure a date in early November for the session. With all of that said, I should also make clear that this post and the experience were not at all sponsored by BAA Training – although I had questions answered by their marketing team.
BAA Training’s facilities are naturally located a short distance (10-15 minute walk) from Vilnius International Airport. Photo: Getty Images
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The pre-flight experience
Accompanied by my wife, we showed up at BAA Training’s facilities, located a short distance from the Vilnius Airport. As the booking was on a Saturday morning, I was provided with the contact information of my instructor as it seemed many of the company’s administrative staff don’t work on the weekends.
Our guide and instructor for the day was Roman. Courteous and friendly, the young pilot gained internet stardom when he posted a photo of his 2020 job as a food delivery driver. Speaking about his post, Roman told Bored Panda:
“I’m a 23-year-old guy, and I worked as a pilot for the past 3 years. As you probably know, the pandemic has brought the aviation industry to historic minimums”
Russian Pilot Compares His Life Before And After The Pandemic As He Becomes A Food Delivery Driver https://t.co/F2uT0Bn94n pic.twitter.com/AmZ9amTbTN
— Clarke Thomas (@needcaffeine) November 26, 2020
Happy to be back in his normal line of work, Roman took us into a briefing room to give us an overview of the cockpit and its various panels and consoles. While I’ve gained a lot of experience writing about all sorts of commercial aviation-related topics, I’ve yet to learn all of the buttons, switches, and indicators found in an aircraft’s cockpit.
Our instructor giving us a quick overview of the various panels and consoles of the 737NG. Photo: Chris Loh | Simple Flying
While this 20 to 30-minute pre-flight briefing would have come more easily to my pilot colleague Tom Boon, most of it was over my head given the speed of the briefing. It’s possible that those who book this entertainment flight experience would be in the same position as myself- or perhaps have even less aviation background. At least I already knew what would allow me to steer on the ground, and which levers would activate the flaps and landing gear.
Following this quick briefing, we were guided over to BAA Training’s 737NG FFS. Photo: Chris Loh | Simple Flying
Moving a little closer to the ‘main event,’ we walked from the briefing room to the simulator. However, the pre-flight activities weren’t quite over as our instructor had to take us through a mandatory safety briefing specific to the simulator. This included an introduction to emergency override switches, evacuation procedures, and what to do if the simulator bridge could not be lowered.
The flight experience
For our experience, Roman recommended that we try flying out of and back to London Gatwick airport. Getting myself seated in the captain’s seat, I was happy to go with his recommendation.
Positioning our simulated aircraft on Gatwick’s Runway 26L, Roman hopped in the First Officer’s seat and ran through all the necessary pre-flight procedures, which included turning on various electrical systems and getting the engines started. Naturally, I was also guided through the use of the yoke, rudder, brakes, and more.
Inside BAA Training’s 737NG simulator. Photo: Chris Loh | Simple Flying
With the rapid introduction to the most basic of controls now complete, I was invited to engage the thrust and begin rolling down the runway for takeoff. Aware of my lack of flight (and flight simulator) experience, Roman handled the aircraft’s flaps and gear for me as our aircraft continued to climb.
After reaching a few thousand feet, we turned left and headed west in order to line ourselves up for an approach and landing back on Runway 26L. Landing the simulated aircraft was certainly an experience – and one that I definitely scored poorly on. While the jet touched down in one piece, we were definitely off-center and eventually popped a tire. The experience of a full flight simulator was certainly impressive, with the entire cockpit jostling back and forth and rumbling as we made contact with the runway.
BAA Training is set to add more full flight simulators in 2022. Photo: Chris Loh | Simple Flying
The approach to Gatwick. Photo: Chris Loh | Simple Flying
After touching down and coming to a full stop, Roman gave me the opportunity to try landing the aircraft again. Subsequent attempts weren’t too much better, with one landing resulting in a tailstrike!
With our time running low, I insisted that my wife take a turn attempting to land the aircraft. Having come off an overnight work shift, she was a little reluctant but decided to give it a try anyway. It also allowed me to take photos of the whole experience!
Our instructor seated in the captain’s seat. Photo: Chris Loh | Simple Flying
Conclusion and additional information
This relatively short one-hour-long experience was fantastic! I had no doubt that a full flight simulator would be an ultra-realistic experience, but I was blown away nonetheless. If you’re keen to try flying a (simulated) 737 or A320 yourself, I would highly recommend this experience.
BAA Training says that it offers the same fun experience to the public at its facility in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The company will also do the same for its Spanish facility in Barcelona early next year.
“An interesting fact about our entertainment flights – they’re often booked by aviation enthusiasts who want to introduce the pilot profession to their children in the most direct and exciting of ways.” Kristina Valaitytė, Director of Marketing, BAA Training
If you happen to be in Vilnius, Lithuania, a certificate for the experience can be attained through the Gera Dovana website (geradovana.lt).
I personally had a challenging time trying to redeem my certificate and book a session, and had to call and email several times. Therefore, if you’re looking to travel to Vilnius for a short time, it would be recommended to secure your booking in advance.
What do you think of the idea of offering full flight simulator experiences to the general public? Let us know by leaving a comment.
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