(Bloomberg) -- We’re sitting in a Boeing 737 simulator with a large autograph of Tom Cruise scrawled on a panel above; this is the cockpit you see in his film, "American Made."
It’s a 737-200, rather than the notorious 737-Max that’s so much in the news these days. But the reason airlines and pilots love the 737 is the cockpits and handling don’t change much; indeed, replicating that comfortable feel is the reason Boeing designers decided to use a software fix known as MCAS on its newer, more-powerful Max. As our simulator instructor says, if you can fly this 200, you should be able to fly the fleet of 737s. Some pilots and airlines aren’t so sure. They’re demanding costly training on a Max simulator before the jet is allowed to fly again.
As the simulator debate rages, we wanted to show what it’s like being inside one with an instructor -- and what pilots in training see and feel when something goes wrong. By the end of our hour with the 200, we can more or less -- leaning toward less -- pilot the jet and take it to a successful landing.
But first, we crash it.
A word of caution if you plan to watch the video -- the realism might disturb some viewers. So below the video is a less-frightening transcript:
*"1,000 feet. Glide slope," the cockpit voice says, announcing our altitude and noting --"glide slope" -- the correct descent path for a plane preparing to land.*"Don’t sink anymore; keep it at that altitude -- don’t go any lower" our instructor tells Brian, who is flying this leg after Mike’s stint at the controls where warning horns sounded as an automated cockpit voice shouted, "PULL UP. PULL UP."*"Give me a speed now of 160," the instructor says. "And bring the flaps to 25."*Brian: "Which runway? Oh, I see it."* Cockpit: "500 feet -- glide slope, glide slope."*Plane veers off course.*Instructor: "You’re going to crash and burn."*Brian: "We’ll see."*The ground looks real; the buildings look real. We feel the plane bounce and sway. We see the land below fast approaching.*Cockpit: "TOO LOW, TERRAIN. TOO LOW, TERRAIN."*Mike: "You’re going to kill us, man."*Cockpit: "TOO LOW, FLAPS. TOO LOW, FLAPS."*We silently remind ourselves that we are on the ground. This is a simulator.*Back on course: "Glide slope, glide slope, glide slope."*Instructor: "Let’s see if he can get it on the runway."*Brian: "I can definitely get it on the runway."*Cockpit: "SINK RATE. SINK RATE."*Plane sharply rolls and shakes; nervous laughter (or are those muffled screams?). *Cockpit: "BANK ANGLE. BANK ANGLE"*Wheels hit the runway. Hard.*Instructor: "HIT -- GET ON THE BRAKES."*Margaret to instructor: "Rudy, save us."*Jet -- still traveling well over 100 knots -- zooms off the runway.*Mike: "Brian’s a fan of NASCAR."
The machine, located at the Delta Air Lines Flight Museum in Atlanta, is the only 737 simulator in the U.S. open to the public, according to its website. People typically pay $425 for an hour in the simulator with an instructor, but some students buy double or triple that time. They get the works: thunderstorms, snowstorms, night flying, mountains, according to our instructor. “I throw everything at them.”
--With assistance from Zara Kessler.
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