Boeing’s Alteon Training Center
First I have to thank Mike (aka Midnight Mike) for the absolutely fantastic tour of this wonderful state of the art facility. For an aviation enthusiast this was a dream come true and an experience I will not soon forget.
Boeing at Long Beach
The facility located at Long Beach Airport home of the famous DC Jet factory at one time was McDonnell Douglas’s training center but now is Boeing’s training center for Pilots, FAs, Mechanics, and other personal involved in the handling of commercial aircraft. The center itself has a number of different simulators both full motion and static. Some of the simulators include the MD-11, 717, 737, and the MD-80.
The training center also includes cabin mockups of the MD-80, 737 classic, NG and a door simulator for the MD-11 and DC-10. Mike even let me open the over wing emergency exit door of the 737. When I asked him he’s like “OMG you’re not bit of a nerd are you?” I said “hell yeah I am!” Yes I had to do it twice just for good measure, lol
Mike took me to just about every part of this facility and one thing that I fell absolutely in love with was the art work, my god the pictures at this facility of the classic Douglas aircraft from the DC-1 to the MD-95 (717) was in itself worth the visit, the hallways of Alteton truly tell the story of a great aircraft manufacturer and its rich and exciting history. If given the choice to take one of the photos home I really don’t think I could decide, each and every one of them were simply amazing.
The simulators themselves are something breathtaking all their own. You walk in this warehouse like room and there they are three state of the art full motion commercial aircraft simulators. The 717 simulator, the newest at the center looks almost like a shuttle craft from some sci-fi movie, truly state of the art in its appearance and operation.
Stepping inside your jaw drops, you would swear you just entered the flight deck of a real airliner. It is an exact replica of the aircraft it represents; you name it every switch, button, light, diode, etc is there, even the seat belt and no smoking switch. Oh and yes when you flip the seat belt switch it makes the seat belt noise; just ask me how many times I did that, lol.
It was time to buckle up and prepare for take off! I sat down in the left seat and look out the window and I was blown away, right in front of me was LAX terminal 4, the jet ramp and all connected to the plane. The instructor Wes, which was a pilot for Continental for 20 years and then MGM Grand Air went over the preflight checklist with me and instructed me on the operation of the aircraft. Once that was done we pushed back and Wes instructed me to move the throttle forward a bit until the plane began to roll and then to reduce power. Really amazing how the aircraft has enough inertia to move it without having to give it more power. I must say I did a pretty good job steering that bird around the taxiway to
Come Fly with me
To make it a bit more like the real thing then it already was to me, Wes introduced some traffic to the airport which was really exciting. We began our taxi to 24L and all around you; you would swear you were in a real plane. The feeling of movement, visuals, and sound were as real as it gets. As we taxied Wes set our auto throttle speed and turned onto the runway. Once lined up on the center line I moved the throttle forward until the auto throttle engaged and off we went. I don’t know how they do it but I was being pushed back into the seat as you would during a real take off. I could only imagine the expression on my face but this was simply an amazing experience. As we reached V speed Wes instructed me to rotate. I’ve always imagined what it was like from left seat to pilot a large airliner off the ground and this experience helped me to realize that wonderful feeling. Pilots really do have the best job in the world!
As we climbed out everything you feel in the sim is just like the real thing. Once we climbed out Wes took me through some basic moves and went over some basic instruction I should know. To make a long story short I never realized even though I’ve heard it a 100 times before, you really do follow your instruments rather then what’s going on outside.
Once we did our take off and climb out Wes set us up for an approach in LAX on 24R, it was wild! There was LAX directly in front of me and a Northwest 747 off to my left making a landing on 24L, wow I can’t believe they fly that close on approach! I was given instruction on my flap setting and even lowered the gear. The one thing I never realized was how much muscle has to be put into so many actions when flying, nothing is really smooth so to speak, every input involves a bit of elbow grease to engage it. Then I thought it must be for safety, if it was that easy to put the gear down or set your flaps and spoilers there’d be more accidental movement of control surfaces.
My landing was picture perfect! I greased that bird in right on the center line!! We came to a full stop and taxied off the active and held on the taxi way. Wes then said where would you like to go now? I said lets go back home to New York and do JFK, I don’t know how many times I’ve flown in and out of JFK but now it was from a perspective from the flight deck. We decided to do 31R so my fellow virtual sim spotters could take some pictures of me landing, lol. This time however we didn’t do a full stop we did a touch and go and climbed back out.
After JFK we did PHNL and then decided to do some high performance flying around Hawaii. Flying through valleys and along the beach was really cool as the terrain warring system, pull up and sink rate warning was going off!
NOW THE FUN PART
After the normal stuff Wes was like you want to see what a commercial jetliner is really capable of? So he instructed me how to put a 717 through a roll!! Holy hell if we didn’t have out belts on we would have been thrown to the other side of the sim, but man was that fun. After that we decided to explore some things that happen in flight. Wes told me to climb to 20,000 feet and engage the auto pilot and he programmed in a wind vortex incident about 2 min into cruise. Wow, our left wing just fell out of the sky without warning. In order to recover Wes was yelling out instructions and assisting me with recovery but I managed to pull her out. Then we did a wind sheer landing at LAX on 24L. I was hand flying her and about a couple miles out the wind sheer alert system goes off, man that alarm really gets you’re attention and as you look down on your CRT you see this bright red line coming right towards you. Wes told me just follow your flight director, while he worked the throttle and I should be able to make it through. When we hit the wind sheer the control yoke felt like I was lifting a 100 lb weight, I was shocked by the weight of the stick and the force it took to control the aircraft. We did manage to make it through but landed a bit far down the runway and had to use some finesse to stop her in time, but we did.
A Dream Come True
This was an experience I’ll never forget and more then likely will go back again in the very near future. If you're ever in Southern California take some time and experience this for yourself. This was the best 150 dollars I’ve ever spent but more so this was a dream and long time desire come true. Thanks again Mike and Wes helping me to realize once again how much I truly love the spirit and magic of aviation.