Off Topic B 757

Okay, this is a little off topic ( a lot?) but if I don’t tell someone soon I’m gonna bust!

Last week I had to be in Colorado Springs for some business. I had read somewhere that United has a pilot for a day program where you can go fly an assortment of full motion simulators.

I got an appointment to “fly” a Boeing 757 sim for two hours on Saturday.

When you arrive at the flight training facility (in Denver) you are given a one hour tour of the facility. It is an impressive learning environment. I was shown static simulators, full motion simulators, training rooms, etc. The regular pilot training program was explained and it is tough!

The next hour is spent going through a pre-flight briefing. We pulled information on our route (LAX to ORD? (Ohare)). The computer calculates the route just like Duats. The weight and balance information was pretty cool. United plans their flight to use about 80% available engine power to save fuel and wear and tear. The computer then calculates the turbine setting (EPR) that you will use as a pilot.

The best part, of course, is “flying” the sim. The cockpit environment is true tp life and the full motion is full motion. It feels like the real deal. David, my instructor, told me that when you get a type rating for a United aircraft, the first time you fly the real plane it will be full of passengers. The sims are that accurate!

After taking off from LAX and flying around a bit, we did a fully automated CAT II landing to zero and 300 RVR. I did not see the runway until the plane was 30 feet above and I never had my hands on the control until it stopped on the centerline of the runway after landing!

Next we took off from Las Vegas and flew down the strip at 500 foot AGL. Fortunately the simulated buidings aren’t hard so I didn’t bounce off them. Flew right through the top of the Stratosphere hotel for kicks.

We did an engine out emergency on landing in Charleston, a V1 engine out on take off(speed where you have to take off) and of course a couple of aileron rolls. I landed the beast on several ILS to minimums and did a respectable job. Not as good as the auto pilot auto landings but I doubt any pilot is that good!

I had a tendancy to over flare (gee, that never happens) so I got to land twice a couple of times. I dragged the left main in the dirt on my single engine landing too.

Anyhow, the trick to the 757 landing is to stop the descent, not to flare. At 30 feet, dump the power and pull back on the stick just enough to stop the descent. Armed with this knowledge I made a few greasers! (Excuse me Mr. Pilot, did we land or were we shot down?)

Incidently, I broke the sim on a steep turn stall. I kicked in a lot of rudder to induce a spin at “30,000 feet”. It did what I wanted and although I recovered (10,000 feet later) I managed to trip the breaker. Not a problem as maintenance had it running again in a few minutes.

BTW, the 757 can be flown three different ways. Hand fly, Farmer Style (using the autopilot dials) or completely automated ( with the flight computer). Using the auto pilot is truly IFR for dummy’s. just set the dials and the plane flies itself. Speed, descent, auto braking, heading, etc. are all set with a dial. Using the flight computer, the plane can (for 1200 feet), fly to the destination using the input route, fly the complete approach, land, and park itself on the centerline of the runway. (then I guess the pilot wakes up and taxi’s to the gate)

It was a lot of fun and I fully recomend it to any pilot. The systems are overwhelming but flying the glass cockpit is intuitive and fun, even for a low time (250 hours) pilot like myself. Oh, and I got to log the 2 hours in my logbook!

For more information, email Dawn Thompson

The cost was $1500 (expensive) but worth every penny. They have less expensive programs as well for 727’s etc.

Sorry to go way off topic but until I get my Cirrus I have to do something for fun…


The United Pilot for a Day website is:


Okay, this is a little off topic ( a lot?) but if I don’t tell someone soon I’m gonna bust

Mark, since you owned up to spending that much money on a couple of hours of fun, I’d also like to tell all about another place to have some fun (and spend lots of money).

Last year I flew an Albatros L-39 jet trainer at Fantasy Fighters in Santa Fe, NM. This is a 70’s vintage Czech single-engine jet (they have MiG-15s and others, too, but the L-39 is the best). I got an hour of dual - the instructor turned it over to me after taxiing out of the parking space and never touched the controls again. We did loops, rolls, and several touch-and-gos. Enormous fun, though at $1500 for the hour it was expensive!