Travels in Finland and abroad

May 20, 2011

A day as a pilot

Foreword:

Okay, so sorry I exaggerated in my title. I had possibility to spent three hours in fly simulator. My wife gave to me a birthday gift which I’ll never forget, to learn to fly a commercial aircraft DC-9 in a simulator.

Background:

Those who have read my About me page, know that my career was among aviation and I made part of ground personnel. During five years I was flying onboard as a flying officer. That meant that I was sent here and there around the world to survey ground handling at destinations and to make balance and load sheet calculations for our airplanes. During these years I sat in cockpit, but mainly in Super Caravelle, and observed how pilots were flying. Many times I thought that it would be wonderful to fly an airplane. The farthest destination, where I went as a flying officer was Buenos Aires.

The big day:

On Monday May 9th, 2011, the day after my birth day, I drove with my wife to Finnair’s Flight Academy nearby the Helsinki-Vantaa airport. I was a little bit nervous without any reason, because at the destination we were met heartily by ex-pilot which I knew before from my working days.

After some recollection of old good days, he my instructor (Matti also) lead us to the briefing room. There we went thru the flying process. After that it was high time to go inside to the flight simulator because I was tender hooks. At that moment I felt again a little bit nervous, because my dream to fly was going to come true. Inside there was four seats, two in real cockpit and two at background.

My wife who was photographer and film maker sat at background, I took the left-hand seat, captain’s seat and my trainer right-hand seat which is first officer’s seat. Once more we went thru the process and Matti taught me once more the most important instruments which I had to survey during the flight. Normal process is that captain is flying and first office (also called co-pilot), surveys and controls instruments. If something happens, captain must fly really, because somebody must fly the air plane and that task is important.

So, after making correct settings for flight, we were ready to go thru the check list, to start engines, setting flaps and when everything was okay, I started first motor, then second motor. I added readings of rounds of both motors up to the calculated amount. Simulator trembled little bit and then my instructor released brakes.

We were rolling. I steered DC-9 in the middle of runway. My instructor gave to me info about the rolling speed by saying V1, V rotate and V2. At V1 it is possible to interrupt take-off. At V rotate nose wheel leaves the ground. V2 is minimum takeoff safety speed. So At V2 I pulled up the yoke and we were airborne.

I had to follow carefully the Attitude indicator and my climbing angle was 15 degrees. When copilot took flaps in, had problems with the climbing speed and the altitude. This is very normal and one must be aware of it. Slowly I reduced climbing angle to 10 degrees and finally to zero after passing 1000 and 2000 feet. After reaching flight level 3000 feet, I could take it easier. Now I had possibility to admire Helsinki at dawn. To maintain the flight level was not as easy as one might consider. When looking out of the cockpit’s window, I missed at that moment the correct flight level. So, I had to make adjustments. At first I made too strong adjustments and it meant that DC-9 was wobbling. It took “long time” to me to adjust the correct cruising speed smoothly. Matti told to me that it is easier to fly a real DC-9 than simulator.

When turning DC-9 for final, I again had problems to maintain correct speed and flight level. Landing we made in visual approach and one important thing was keep the air plane on line of runway. When wheels touched the runway, air craft made some bounces. I rolled on the middle of runway and stopped. First flight was over. Phew. Landing was bad, I confess. When repeating more flies, I started to manage better and better landing and so it went also to keep right flight level and speed when turning back for landing.

I went thru all this with my instructor after my first flight. Next flight went better. I also wanted one curiosity in my flying course. That was thru landing which means landing without stopping, accelerating and straight away to take-off. That was really nice. That I love very much.

Once we stopped our flight in the air just to admire Helsinki from the air trying to identify known places. The landing of last flight was made by ILS or let us say using Instrumental Landing System. It went really very good. My wife not even noticed that we made the landing and all this fabulous training was over!

During all my flying my wife took some photos and video. I captured many photos from videos and combined them with photos taken by my camera. Those photos during flight were not so excellent, because my wife could not use flash.

When driving back to our home I was excited yet. Next night I could not sleep much, but I was dreaming flying and I went yesterday thru again and again.

About Finnair’s DC-9 flight simulator:

This simulator is about 40 years old and during these years it has been in use during 70000 hours. Those people who were trained in it came from all over the world. Now it is open for everybody and instructors are ex-pilots. So was mine too and I know him since I was working as a flying officer onboard of Super Caravelle.

Maybe You noticed that I was flying only in visual and not using autopilot. To fly in visual is more interesting and it is just that which educates the best way.

The captain (me) in cockpit

The captain (me) in cockpit

Copilot shows to me wonders of buttons

Copilot shows to me wonders of buttons

Copilot shows to me where to start engines

Copilot shows to me where to start engines

I am starting right engine

I am starting right engine

I am starting left engine and at same time checking oil pressure and that are motors warming

I am starting left engine and at same time checking oil pressure and that are motors warming

Vertical Speedometer

Vertical Speedometer

Some things

Some things

Some of most important meters needed for flying

Some of most important meters needed for flying

More meters

More meters

Hmm

Hmm

Before going to the simulator

Before going to the simulator

Ex-pilot and me

Ex-pilot and me

Cockpit of DC-9 seen from the entrance. At background the view of flight deck

Cockpit of DC-9 seen from the entrance. At background the view of flight deck

Briefing of meters

Briefing of meters

Presenting some meter (maybe some fuel meter) to my wife

Presenting some meter (maybe some fuel meter) to my wife

She photographed and shot videos

She photographed and shot videos

All my routes which I flew

All my routes which I flew

Hey, this seems interesting. How I’ll mange it?

Hey, this seems interesting. How I’ll mange it?

It is all over now, I was not really relaxed as You see, no smile.

It is all over now, I was not really relaxed as You see, no smile.

Video:

Finnish Aviation Museum’s page

Aviation glossary

What is flight simulator

Finnair info in Wikipedia

ILS

DC-9-50 in numbers

Photo from Finnair’s DC-9-51 and many more airplanes. Also including some photos from “Moomins MD11”

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