British Airways said Christmas sales of sessions on Europe’s biggest collection of flight simulators will lift public bookings beyond 700 for the year, testing the mettle of wannabe pilots while helping to offset the cost of machines that cost 10 million pounds ($16 million) apiece.
Taking the yoke of a modern jetliner doesn’t come cheap, even if the “plane” is essentially a box on the ground, with packages starting at 399 pounds for an hour flying a single- aisle Boeing Co. 737 and rising to 1,347 pounds for three hours piloting a 777 or 747 jumbo. Tuition is included.
British Airways has seen demand for simulator time increase as the introduction of new planes prompts it to invest in extra devices. The 17 machines, including the latest for the single- aisle Airbus Group NV A320 which was added in April, are used primarily by BA’s 3,600 pilots, as well as by crew from about 50 other airlines and even by film production companies.
Public demand for time on BA’s simulator “fleet” is likely to grow further if availability opens up on machines that replicate the cockpits of the A380 superjumbo and Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which were purchased last year and are still being used intensively as more planes join the roster.
British Airways pilots are required to complete a simulator test once every six months to ensure they are capable of handling emergencies. The machines — known in the industry as “sims” — allow pilots to replicate flights between any of BA’s 180 global destinations.
Public simulator sessions include personal instruction from one of 300 current or retired pilots who perform the task.
All 17 simulators are full-motion models that pitch and yaw wildly if control is lost, while three angled projectors create a 180 degree-view with full depth perception. The experience extends to a variety of pre-programable weather conditions and even traffic on roads on airport approaches.
The BA simulator lineup includes models the carrier no longer operates, such as the Boeing 757, which remain in demand among pilots from other carriers that still use the aircraft.
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