As the pilot of a jet, I was required to pass a competency check every six months. Some of the maneuvers I needed to perform were less expensive and much safer to do in a flight simulator.
It may not look like much from the outside, but inside it's better than Disney World.
These simulators are incredibly advanced, offering full motion and exceptional graphics which are capable of giving the pilot a very realistic experience. The instructors also have the God-like powers to place you at any airport, in any time of weather conditions, with whatever broken aircraft systems that floats their boat.
For this reason, many a pilot has woken up in a cold sweat at the prospect of simulator training. Not me. I loved it. Where else can you test the very limits of your flying expertise and not run the risk of dying?
My freight dog brethren understood.
Great. Where's the flashlight?
A night time approach in a half mile of freezing fog with clear ice building on the unprotected surfaces of your aircraft was not a far fetched scenario, it was common. Losing your interior lights may not even be noticed during the day when most pilots are working, but it could be a giant pain in the ass for a freight pilot at 2:00 in the morning.
Some of the instructors particularly enjoyed the freight dog “bring it on” attitude. Once, after a particularly difficult approach and embarrassingly ugly landing in the Learjet 35 simulator, I had angrily asked my instructor what I did wrong. He just laughed and said, “I loaded you up with about 3000 pounds of ice. I can’t believe you didn’t crash.”
Asking one of these folks for a zero visibility approach and landing must have been like manna from Heaven. How horrible would it be to have omnipotent powers that you could only use when some adventurous and arguably masochistic soul said, “pretty please?”
Call me crazy – you wouldn’t be the first or the last – but I never wanted to be the pilot caught by surprise in a dangerous situation for the first time in an actual aircraft. I wanted to experience everything from the safety of the simulator first where I could explore different solutions, have the luxury of stopping time, and review what worked and what didn’t.
All the fun with none of the risk. What could be better than that?