My flight experience in an Alaska Airlines MD80 simulator.
A few years back I was an employee ( Ticket Agent ) for Alaska Airlines based in San Jose, California. I worked for Alaska Airlines for a little over 1 year. I quit the airline industry because they didn’t pay well. I remember we would plea to the higher ups to give us a pay differential in San Jose because of the cost of living and since I was there it never happened. I think I quit Alaska making $8.50 an hour.
Although I wasn’t pleased with the pay, the work was fun and I met a lot of great people. I also had a lifetime opportunity to fly the McDonald Douglas MD80 simulator at the Alaska Airlines Headquarters in Seattle,WA. It was probably one of the most exciting days of my life!
Sometimes I wish I can turn back the time and start all over again. I went to high school, vocational aviation maintenance school (George T. Baker, Miami FL) and I got my pilots license along with my MULTI,COMM,INSTRUMENT ratings. After that I did not purse the airline pilot career because I didn’t like the idea of being away from home. I wanted to be involved with airplanes in general because I love aviation. I decided to work for the airlines. I worked for RENO AIR, AMERICAN EAGLE, and ALASKA. What a fun time I had!
I remember one time working in San Jose for Alaska, I was in the employee lunchroom and a jump seater pilot came into the lunchroom and sat at the table to eat lunch. He was by himself and since I don’t like the sound of silence I sparked up a conversation and asked him what he did for Alaska? He told me he was the chief pilot for Alaska and he was evaluating the crew that just came in. I felt a cooling feeling meeting the chief pilot. I talked to him for a while and told him that I was a private pilot. He was really receptive and I guess he liked my attitude enough that he gave me his business card and told him to call him if I was ever in Seattle to fly the simulator! My jaw almost dropped to the floor! I couldn’t believe he said that. I have always wondered what it would feel like to fly a big iron. I would love to become an airline pilot for 1 month just to fly the Boeings or Airbuses, I know that eventually I would get bored of it after flying it for a while. This was my opportunity of a lifetime.
A month went by before I gain up the nerve to call him. I called him and have left a message to call me. After not hearing from him for over a week I contacted his receptionist to find out if he was around, she told me that he had a family emergency and would be out for a couple of weeks, she asked if she can help me? I told her that he invited me to take a ride in the simulator whenever I was in Seattle and I told her I was going up there next week to see some friends. She told me to come see her when I was in town and she’d see what she could arrange.
I got into Seattle on a Friday morning and went to meet her in the corporate offices. Little did she know that I flew to Seattle mainly for the simulator, my friends were out of town that weekend but I was willing to take the flight there. I met with her and she was really cool. She took me out to lunch with a couple of other office workers, I felt a little out of place but it was ok. When we got back to the office we walked over to the pilot training center, I was in heaven!! She checked the simulator schedule and told me that it was booked for the day but if I wanted to I can come back after the last session was over at 10:00PM. She must have thought I was disappointed, I told her sure I would. I hung out around Seattle until 9:30PM and headed back to the training center.
I arrived at the center and was greeted by the engineer. ( I guess he’s the guy that sits behind the simulator on the computer). He told me that there was a crew in the simulator and they were almost done. Once the crew finished up ( around 11:30 ) he told me to step into the cockpit simulator. WOW, this looked like the real thing!! Everything in the cockpit looked identical to the real plane. I sat in the captains chair and he went over the throttles, thrust reversers and some V speeds. I was pretty familiar with the controls because I do a lot of reading and flying.
He sat back in his computer chair and asked me what I wanted to do/ What kind of weather, etc. I told him to start me out in Seattle airport clear skies. The screen lit up in front of me and I was taxiing to the runway. This was a full motion simulator that stands on stilts about 30 feet in the air. When I would advance the throttles to taxi I would feel the slight acceleration, I also felt little bumps and grooves as I taxied on the taxi way!! How realistic is that!! I finally got to the runway and lined up using the tiller wheel.
I applied full throttle and felt the G force pushing me to my seat, what a RUSH!!! I take off at my assigned take off speed and cruise around Seattle. What a blast. For the second time around he failed the right engine on takeoff and I flew the pattern with a failed engine! I was surprised that the plane handled so well, I brought it around and buttered my landing. The third setup was an ILS approach into Seattle slightly below minimums. I flew the needle all the way down with minor adjustments. After the ride (which took a bit over 1 hour ) I thanked the engineer and went back to the hotel.
I will always remember this experience and I thank Alaska Airlines for bringing me as close as possible to a dream that I had for a long time.