Time to Fly?
So as some of you may know, I work for a fairly small company. The downside to this is that very often, the workload is so great, lunch and post-work spare time become something one enjoys during school ad nothing else. Good for business, Bad for my blog!
Today, I thought I’d take a break from the journey and have a ramble on a thought that occurred to me on a Cold November morning, and the subsequent 18 or so hours that followed…
The sky was still dark as I sat with a coffee and pancakes at Heathrow’s T2 on the 5th of November 2015. Before me lay a 19 hour trip to surprise 2 half siblings of mine on the other side of the planet.
What has this to do with FSX you ask? Your question isn’t entirely unjustified, until now I have been taking you through my little journey of add on’s, routes and changes in time between the then and the now. Well just sit tight- The autism will show its face soon.
Our aircraft for the first leg of this London- Perth epic was a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777- 300. I, personally, was very excited to be going on Flightsim’s current MVP- “P” in this case I’m sure you have guessed, stands for “Plane”… Well done, you’re a genius. My girlfriend, not so much. To her a flight anywhere is a pain. It’s several hours of sitting and waiting with nothing more than free alcohol and enough movies to make Netflix look down at its feet like an awkward schoolboy asking his crush to the prom. How I pity the mind frame of the frequent flyer.
Anyway, stepping from the Jetway to the aircraft I could almost imagine what was going on in the flight deck- the Pre-flight checklist lit up on the middle screen, the FO (who was the pilot flying today) doing his final checks of the FMC and info pages before calling for pushback.
The reason I could picture this activity was all down to experiences of my own- VATSIM chatting away in the background and my staring at my central screen going over checklists and systems to ensure everything is ready for departure.
As the engines roared to life the cabin shook with the raw power of those GE monsters strapped onto the wings and I sat back and compared this to my “Butt Kicker” back home… It’s surprisingly effective, and definitely makes a difference- if you don’t already have one, get one! Starting the engines is awesome and in the PMDG, the “on/off” rumble of the engines in flight is simulated perfectly. The airbus from Aerosoft also simulates the bumps in the taxiway- you will have to turn your settings up for that though (just don’t forget to turn them back down before takeoff otherwise you won’t have a floor left- trust me)
Digression aside it was thrilling to finally get to sit inside something I have effectively been flying for the last 6 months and witness the sights, sounds and movements first hand. Safe to say, I wasn’t disappointed.
That’s the first point I want to make- the sounds and sights were exactly the same (with the obvious lack of flight deck to compare to) to what I was used to. Flight simulation- thanks to a particular group of dedicated designers- has become so realistic it’s scary. Facebook pages are now full of “real Vs Flight sim” photos with the real airbus climbing into the sky, with a snapshot of the sim directly beneath- or vice versa… sometimes its too bloody hard to tell the difference.
It was also on that day I experienced my first rejected Takeoff. As we taxied towards Heathrow’s Runway 27L I entertained my other half with facts that I have only gained through an obsession with Flight Sim- comparing engine diameters of the 777 to the fuselage of the 737 waiting to let us pass. In the distance a giant sail- the tail fin on an Airbus A380 sticks above the terminal and I- like the little child I am- Sat wondering how long it would be before I would get to go on it… Little did I know that it was 2 weeks and would be my return leg back from Singapore… But more on that later.
We taxied onto the runway, still rolling forward the engines spooled up…and immediately shut down again and we rolled off of a runway exit approximately 50 feet down from where we entered. The excitement of a RTO is somewhat lost when you have to consider the potential repercussions- hours of delay at a terminal, missed connections and all the months of hard work on timing for when my siblings get home from school & work fly out the window faster than the number 2 for departure took our place. The PA came on and the first officer said that they were going through the checklist to sort the problem… A checklist all those that own a PMDG 777 know is on that central screen. Nice and easy. In less than 20 minutes we were roaring down the runway and climbing through England’s November cloud and drizzle- I live in Reading, so I was sure to wave down at all the people I knew would be working hard in the office some 5’000 feet below me as we passed over reading and turned East on our trip to Singapore.
Now, for all of you reading this who enjoy spending hours on the long-haul routes I want to pit a question for you. What’s the biggest difference (besides the reality vs simulation aspect) that goes so drastically overlooked when we try to recreate even an 8hr hop across the pond?
Give it a while, it will come to you- at least, it did to me as I took 10 minutes to wander around the aircraft as we left Asia and made our turn south towards Singapore. The answer is simple, and in my opinion is the biggest problem for people who like to spend a long time on their sim.
Think about it. You get on a plane to anywhere and takeoff at 12:00. Well the whole world isn’t at 12:00 is it? We have time differences. So for me up there in that SQ 777, I was heading to a place where it was early morning- I still had a full day ahead of me after I landed. Sure it was the next day, but from where I sat, I had got on a plane, and when I got off I still had a full day to enjoy.
But back home in dear-old England, the hour was fast approaching 22:00 and people would be looking at getting some shut eye. The day was over, and to enjoy a new day one would have to go through the usual night time & morning routine.
So to be sat at a PC in the same country, you really spend a full day doing…well…nothing. You have been on autopilot this whole time, the day is over and you probably need to go to bed when you land.
So why do we do this my friends? I’m keen to hear your response. I don’t have an answer for it of course, I just do.
For me, it’s a small sense of accomplishment- a way of earning the right to fly into that new scenery and when flying on the likes of VATSIM, stands you out among the crowd as people check you out on Vpilot and say “Damn, he’s flown to Gatwick from Hong Kong” or “that guy in front of me is off to the Maldives”. It’s a sacrifice we make to our hobby- the same way that a car nut will spend hours in the garage tweaking and removing rust from an Engine that should have been turned into coke cans long-ago.
Where was I? Somewhere on the approach to Singapore wasn’t it? Guess I’ll have to save that for next time.