See inside the Boeing 787 flight simulator where Singapore Airlines pilots train
Singapore Airlines maintains two Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight simulators for pilot training.
Aviators will spend 100 to 200 hours in the machine before flying for the carrier.
Insider toured one of the simulators in Singapore to learn more about the training process.
Hiring and maintaining qualified airline pilots is one of the most important aspects of commercial aviation.
Passengers see these aviators in action every day, but it took a lot of time and work to get to the cockpit.
Airline pilots go through robust training before they can fly commercial aircraft, including written coursework and hands-on learning.
To get a closer look at one of these programs, Insider toured Singapore Airlines' Boeing 787 flight simulator — take a look.
Captain Adrian Amaladoss, Singapore's divisional vice president of flight operations training and standards, told Insider the airline has two full-motion Dreamliner simulators.
While the price varies based on design complexities and manufacturing, these devices cost airlines millions of dollars and are the closest thing to real life that pilots in training can get to flying a commercial jet.
Amaladoss said the 787 simulator is a "level seven machine," meaning it is highly sophisticated and realistic, saying it replicates an actual Dreamliner jet.
Hundreds of Singapore's 2,400 fleet-wide pilots train in these devices, which run 24/7 every single day of the year.
When hiring a pilot, Singapore looks for specific academic and medical requirements, as well as assesses the candidate’s decision-making abilities, memory, and coordination.
"They have to also face at least two panels of professional interviewers," he said. "[We] look into what their motivation is and whether they have the technical knowledge, the resilience, and ability to carry on a career as a professional pilot."
When a trainee enters the Dreamliner simulator, they will find two seats for the pilots…
…two seats for the trainers…
…and a huge screen to mimic the external scenes, like the taxiways, runways, gates, skylines, and clouds.
There were also the typical flight controls, like the thrust lever — aka the throttle — and flaps...
...and speed brakes.
Moreover, the flight deck had several switches and buttons, like the autopilot, the altitude selector, and the audio panel...
…as well as large flight displays that tell the pilots things like heading and altitude.
This information is also shown on the cockpit's heads-up display, which gives pilots more situational awareness, Boeing 787 deputy chief pilot Captain Quek Swee Tiag told Insider.
Amaladoss said getting the aviators acclimated to the machine and its motion can be challenging, but they become more spatially aware as the training goes on.
In total, the pilots will spend 100 to 200 hours in simulation devices before obtaining their professional licenses and will revisit the simulator throughout their career for things like recurrent and upgrade training.
A typical training session is four hours with two pilots, Tiag explained, and the trainees know the exercises and procedures they will be working on so they can prepare in advance.
Many of the training elements are routine events that would be expected in a modern airliner, like takeoffs, landings, and course configuration, and can be set up in different types of weather.
"We could have a day with a clear sky," Amaladoss said, noting night scenes, and snow, fog, rain, and turbulence scenarios are all also possible. "All of these things can be very accurately replicated and mimicked in devices such as these."
Singapore pilots will also encounter safety-critical emergency flight producers during training, like depressurization, an engine failure, or a stall.
Tiag explained that although the trainees are aware of the details of their lessons, they are unaware of the anomalies the instructors will throw at them during the flight to test their ability to address emergency scenarios.
The instructors use a special system to simulate unexpected scenarios during each session.
To provide an example, Tiag demonstrated an engine fire to show us the alarms and lights that go off in the cockpit to alert the pilots.
He explained in the case of a fire, the pilots would turn off the light and start addressing the problem via outlined procedures — which they should be familiar with as part of their training.
If the engine needs to be switched off, he said the aircraft is "completely capable of flying safely with one engine."
According to Amaladoss, there is very little that cannot be replicated in the simulator. However, there was one unique element noticed during the full-motion demonstration.
When the instructor was landing the sim, it suddenly jolted. Tiag explained this is how the airline mimics the motion and feeling of landing since it cannot be properly replicated otherwise.
For the most part, every aspect of the sim is nearly exact to a real-life plane. Though, of course, there is no crew or a cabin full of people onboard.
Amaladoss said the flight instructors are important for this as they help train and assess pilots in their ability to communicate and work with other personnel.
Overall, the flight training is incredibly robust and intense, which is imperative to the safe operation of Singapore's large fleet of Airbus and Boeing jets.
"We put safety right at the very top," Tiag said. "We want to make sure that any crew whom we send out to fly, we have no doubt about his or her ability to fly the aircraft safely."
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