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I talked with my contact last night.

 

It turns out that it was the Arab who bought Suzie Wong last year. For the first several months, everything was good. He did the right things, and was going in the right direction. Then something happened, and the bad changes started, and it became an "Arab bar".

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Nooooooooooooooo....

 

oh the humanity. btw - despite a decline in looks and the avg dancer being about 5 kilos heavier, along with a more determined drink hustle for 'tequila' -- still like Tilac. Not sure why, but I do. Maybe it's the nostalgia factor.

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I talked with my contact last night.

 

It turns out that it was the Arab who bought Suzie Wong last year. For the first several months, everything was good. He did the right things, and was going in the right direction. Then something happened, and the bad changes started, and it became an "Arab bar".

 

It figures. You're in Bangkok now while I'm freezing my butt off in Huntsville. 62F today. :(

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It is worse than that, Flash.

 

I spent Friday morning at Thai Airways HQ.

 

I got to fly their Boeing 777-300ER Level D Full Flight Simulator.

 

Not very many things say "You have crossed a threshold in your life" like walking across the drawbridge into a CAE 7000-series Level D simulator, with everything alive, and seeing the left front seat waiting for YOU.

 

I never in my life dreamed that I would get to do something like that. It didn't really become real for me until about the time I stepped through the simulator doorway, and saw the instructor's station and the front seats, and it hit me that it was really happening.

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Fantastic! Good on you!

 

I used to play F/A 18 Hornet on a Mac with two 24" screens and loved it, despite it's 'cartoony' graphics.

 

I don't think Ill ever get enough information in my head, to fly a real simulator, but anyway, I'm envious of you.

 

You lucky, lucky bastard!

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It wasn't free. Thai Airways (like all airlines) keeps their simulators BUSY. For those odd hours when none of their pilots are doing recurrent training, and no other airline has bought time, they offer them to the public at 20,000 baht/hour. (Note: WORTH EVERY SATANG!!!) You are at the mercy of their scheduling, obviously, and the program is not widely advertised. I heard about it almost by accident, did some digging, and found the contact information.

 

I inquired, telling them when I would be in town. I did not hear back, and just about gave up. When I checked my email after arriving in Bangkok, I found their email, that they'd sent while I was in transit. They offered me three possible timeslots, and a choice of 747 or 777. I suggested a slight preference for 777, having logged 28 hours in a 737-800 fixed-base sim, so I was very familiar with the 777 avionics. Either airplane would have been acceptable (and FUN!!!). They scheduled me for Friday, in the 777, brief at 9:30, fly at 10:00-11:00.

 

I got there at 8:00 AM, since I had no idea what the morning traffic might be like on that end of town. They're up near Chatuchak. I showed up in a business suit, looking absolutely professional and ready to work, and that's exactly how they seemed to treat me, as a visiting professional, a pilot from another airline in for training. At first, they put me in the pilots library, then moved me to the briefing room. A bit after 9:30, the instructor pilot showed up. Quick video about safety procedures in the simulator, quick brief about where we're going to be flying (Hong Kong, familiar airspace to me), and we're all set!

 

As I said earlier, it didn't become completely real to me until we walked across the drawbridge and entered the simulator cabin. I looked at the instructor station, the observer seat, and then I saw the empty left front seat, waiting for me, and I realized: This was REALLY HAPPENING, I was really going to do this.

 

Sit down, adjust the seat, discuss a few things, I look around, electronic pre-flight checklist, and then I started a slightly-modified version of my standard pre-takeoff checklist for the 737: MCP knobs set, autothrottle armed, flight directors switches on, speed brakes off, trim in the green range, parking brake set, fuel levers at idle, takeoff flaps set and verified against the indicator, autobrakes RTO (apply full wheel brakes on Rejected TakeOff) (he had them OFF, I set them to RTO, force of habit), gear lever verified down, landing lights on, parking brake release, checklist complete.

 

I called 40% N1 power (standard on 737), and he corrected me to 60%. OK, 60% N1. We are rolling, engines stabilized at 60% N1, TO/GA (TakeOff/GoAround power button), she accelerates FAST, airspeed indicator is alive, 80 knots, I'm at V1 (commit to fly), Vr (rotate) and I start my pull, V2 (flying speed), and we're airborne and climbing like a homesick angel.

 

Life is good!

 

The 777 is a SWEETHEART to fly. She is also, in her way, very different from the 737. If the 737 is a Ford Mustang, then the 777 is a Maybach: much bigger, much heavier, much more refined, much more luxury... and she has enough added power and acceleration to surprise the bleep out of a Mustang driver!

 

Takeoff, cruise, and approach speeds were about the same as for the 737. Takeoff acceleration was noticeably higher. After landing, the braking action was BRUTALLY strong, and perfectly controllable.

 

Control forces were noticeably higher. The controls felt tighter, no play AT ALL. The 737 frequently feels like there's a little play in the controls. I found myself using the trim a lot more than I do on the 737, because of the higher control forces.

 

Handling qualities were different, not better, not worse, just different. I was smart: I turned on the flightpath marker before we first took off, and I used it, and it helped. Just the same, I had my hands full.

 

She seemed easier to hold on attitude than the 737: that's fly-by-wire as opposed to power-aided mechanical control.

 

One VERY noticeable difference: the 737 is designed to fly and especially land nose up: flare angle is 6-8 degrees. The 777 flies almost nose-level: flare angle on landing is 1-2 degrees maximum. This did give me some trouble; the instructor pilot had to cue me on it.

 

Some of the fonts in the displays seemed a little bit different, and, as I observed to a Cathay Pacific captain a few months ago, visiting in his cockpit after the BKK-HKG hop, while waiting for my wheelchair, I could fall in LOVE with the 777's electronic checklists!

 

I had an absolute great time! Yes, I was working, the entire time, and that is how it should be. We started out with Pilot Flying/Pilot Monitoring protocol, which was good. I'd initially asked him to yell at me if I made one of my standard mistakes while setting the autothrottle controls, and he explained that, under Pilot Flying/Pilot Monitoring, I'd be flying, and I'd call the settings as needed, and he'd make those settings, as well has handle flaps and landing gear. This is straight-up airline protocol, a Very Good Thing, and good experience for me. As we flew, the instructor noticed I had my hands full, and very smoothly transitioned more to instructor. It worked well.

 

We flew with autothrottle the entire time, but never touched the autopilot. Hand-flying is more fun, and I was definitely NOT ready to fly her on manual throttle just yet.

 

We flew two complete circuits around Hong Kong International, and two short final approach exercises. He had to coach me a bit on power and flare angle during final. With a little help on the controls from him, I nailed all four landings. Four for four in an unfamiliar airplane with different handling qualities and flight envelope is not bad.

 

After we finished, and climbed out, he showed me the Airbus A380 simulator, in the next bay over. That thing is HUGE! We walked in, I looked around, he pointed out the side stick controller, and I mentioned that I'd flown the F-16 simulator at General Dynamics / Fort Worth 30 years ago, so I'd flown a side stick before. As much as I am a Boeing fan, it is quite likely that they'll talk me into doing a hop in an Airbus, just to see how the other half lives... :-)

 

Last part was sit and relax for a bit over refreshments. I had Japanese green tea. I believe this part of their drill is to help the customer relax, come down from the euphoria, and reorient to being on the ground and let the experience sink in.

 

I did have to apologize at the end for not having any personal cards with me, and I still have to write a final thank-you note.

 

It was made clear that I was welcome back, just please give them as much notice as possible. I plan to take them up on this, but not until after I've done considerably more preparation work.

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