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Ever wanted to be a pilot

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3 August 2011 by Luke McCormick

Here Luke McCormick, Wexas Channel Editor, provides an inside look at the latest headlines and gives his independent, expert comment.

This week: ever wanted to be a pilot?

Virtual Flight Training

This week British Airways is offering one lucky winner the chance to win a pilot training experience at the airline's state-of-the-art pilot training centre at Heathrow, a centre I was lucky enough to visit recently.

If you're taking off from the UK then British Airway's Flight Training Centre at Heathrow Airport is probably the most likely place your Captain or First Officer will have trained. The multi-million pound, high-tech facility - one of very few of its kind in the world - teaches not only BA pilots, but those from over 40 other UK and International airlines on some of the most sophisticated Flight Simulators on earth.

Fast LearnersBA A380

Flight Training Instructor, BA Pilot Gemma Dixon says the facility is crucial to producing highly qualified pilots: "New pilots will have at least 1000 virtual flying hours under their belts and they'll be under the supervision of a very qualified Captain."

Self-Landing Planes?

It seems the computer-controlled theme continues in the air as well: "In very bad weather or near-zero visibility we have no choice but to let planes land themselves," Gemma says. Indeed, on a recent visit to the training centre the most surprising moment came when Gemma demonstrated just how sophisticated modern aircraft are by allowing our Boeing 777-200 to land itself in heavy fog using sophisticated radar and radio signals, what's known as a CAT 3B landing.

Virtual flight

Learn to Fly

"We take the auto-pilot off at every opportunity, especially in fine weather, because we love to ‘fly them' whenever we can," Gemma says. And indeed anyone can learn ‘to fly them' as the EBAFT facility is open to individuals for learn-to-fly visits when it's not booked out by airlines. And absolutely no prior knowledge is needed!

Safety First

This facility is so integral to maintaining safety in the skies that working pilots must spend at least two full days here every six months, negotiating multiple failure and emergency situations, and apparently they always pass with flying colours. "It's compulsory for every pilot to spend the time training here," says Gemma.
"When pilots aren't performing well we take them out of the air and bring them straight here."

Take Control

The facility also features a ground school, cabin safety training simulators (with fire and smoke, wet drills, slide descents and door operation), there's even flight safety awareness courses initially developed for companies to help keep their personnel safe in emergency situations, they give guests the opportunity to experience a simulated aircraft emergency situation followed by a full debrief with safety advice and techniques.

BAFor your chance to take control of a Boeing Jumbo Jet at the facility, where you will be given a full pre-flight brief on the flight deck instruments, controls, and systems before attempting a take-off, approach and landing at Heathrow, visit BA's Facebook page.

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